Heyl Family Practice

Do you ever feel like you can't relax or that your brain won't stop buzzing with all the things you have to worry about? Everyone feels stress and anxiety sometimes, but your worries should not overtake your daily life. Normal feelings of stress are one thing, but when those feelings become overwhelming, it can be a sign of a bigger mental health concern. Anxiety disorders are serious mental health conditions that cause significant distress to those who live with them. One such disorder is generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a type of anxiety disorder, like social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and others. Generalized anxiety is marked by persistent anxious feelings that are often uncontrollable. Unlike people who experience occasional anxiety around stressful life events, those with GAD worry constantly and may find that their anxiety gets worse rather than better over time. But there is hope for healing -- when you know the symptoms of generalized anxiety, you can seek the treatment that's right for you. To help you determine whether or not you may have a mental health condition, the mental health specialists at Genesis Medical Associates have compiled a list of 6 signs that you might have generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD.

  1. 1. You have excessive feelings of worry or dread.

    Many people do not recognize when their anxious feelings go beyond the normal response to life's stressors. People with anxiety disorders experience excessive worry about things like family, money, work, and health on most days. Moreover, this worry usually lasts for months or even years. If you have anxious thoughts or feelings that interfere with your daily life more often than not, you may have generalized anxiety disorder.
  2. 2. You feel constantly restless or on edge.

    Restlessness is an incredibly common symptom of generalized anxiety disorder. Stress causes the body's fight or flight response to be activated, and adrenaline is released. This often causes physical feelings of restlessness in people with GAD because they experience frequent, intense stress. Anxious thoughts might also lead people to feel mentally or emotionally on edge. Generalized anxiety disorder could be the reason you feel stuck in fight or flight mode and are unable to relax.
  3. 3. You have difficulty concentrating.

    Your body's fight or flight response to stress could also be the reason you have difficulty concentrating. Stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol can make you feel restless and foggy, leading to forgetfulness and difficulties with concentration.
  4. 4. You have sleep problems.

    For people with anxiety disorders, the stress doesn't turn off when it's time to sleep. In fact, some people dwell on their worries the most while they're trying to fall asleep. Anxiety can cause you to become stuck in a state of mental hyperarousal that leads to sleep disturbances. On top of that, constant stress can cause fatigue. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep or find that you're more tired than usual, GAD might be to blame.
  5. 5. You experience unexplained muscle aches or tension.

    In addition to the mental and emotional signs, generalized anxiety disorder can manifest in physical symptoms. Notably, many people who experience anxiety disorders like GAD also have muscle aches and muscle tension. But why is this the case? You guessed it -- it has to do with the body's response to stress.

    Stress can cause muscles to contract, or tighten, leading to tension and pain. In people with GAD, persistent stress can lead to hyperstimulation. This is when you experience the physical effects of the body's stress response even when it has not been activated. If you have chronic muscle pain that seems to have no cause, anxiety-related hyperstimulation may be the culprit.

  6. 6. You have recurring stomach aches or other GI issues.

    Physical illness can also be an indicator of GAD. Gastrointestinal (GI) issues are common among people with anxiety disorders. Stress causes the body to release hormones and neurotransmitters, and these can hinder motility; in other words, the stomach and intestines can't move waste through the body as well as they should. Stress can also cause an imbalance in gut bacteria. These bodily responses often lead to pain and discomfort. If you experience these problems (and they aren't better explained by another condition), it may be an indicator of generalized anxiety.

Treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are plenty of methods for treating generalized anxiety disorder, including therapy, medication, or a combination of both.

Talk therapy can be a great way to work through overwhelming emotions, which is why it is frequently used to treat anxiety disorders. Licensed counselors can help you to develop healthier thinking patterns to challenge your anxious thoughts. They can also provide you with relaxation and stress management techniques to help you get through daily challenges presented by GAD. A mental health professional may even be able to refer you to a support group where you can speak with peers who are working to overcome the same mental health challenges as you. Anti-anxiety medications are also frequently used to treat GAD. When medication is needed, mental health professionals will usually prescribe one of two types of medication: selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications are used to treat many different anxiety and depressive disorders because they help regulate the amount of serotonin, an important neurotransmitter that is linked to mood and emotions, in the brain. Anti-anxiety medication can quickly begin to reduce chronic stress and, in combination with tak therapy, can be incredibly effective in treating GAD.

Mental health concerns are just as serious as physical ailments. If you think you have generalized anxiety disorder, don't wait to seek professional help. The sooner you speak to a mental health professional, the sooner you can start treatment to reduce anxiety symptoms and get the tools necessary to live a mentally healthy lifestyle. To experience life without the overwhelming symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, schedule an appointment with the mental healthcare team at Genesis Medical Associates today.