Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is defined as persistent and excessive worry that is difficult to control and interferes with daily life. While it is normal to experience feelings of anxiety in daily life, those with GAD may worry when there is no apparent cause or reason. Another distinguishing factor of GAD is that people experience anxiety more days than not over several months.
Presence of anxiety or worry about a number of events or activities, lasting for at least 6 months, and occurring more days than not
The worry is difficult to control
Anxiety is associated with at least three of the following symptoms for adults, and at least one for children:
Restlessness or feeling on edge
Muscle tension or soreness
Anxiety or physical symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in areas of one’s life, like work or relationships
Treatment Options for Anxiety
Fortunately, symptoms of GAD are treatable. It’s all about finding the best treatment plan for you, which may include therapy, medications, or a combination of both.
Some common types of therapy for generalized anxiety include:
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective types of therapy for many people who have anxiety disorders. The purpose of CBT is to address how our thoughts and beliefs affect the way that we feel. CBT for anxiety focuses on identifying and challenging negative thoughts and then changing how you respond to those thoughts.
This type of therapy can also help individuals recognize when they’re anxious and develop coping mechanisms.
Originally used to treat borderline personality disorder, there is evidence that dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be effective for treating anxiety. DBT is a type of cognitive therapy. In DBT, clients learn to accept their anxiety while also learning to manage it. DBT emphasizes mindfulness and emotion regulation.
Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) is similar to DBT and CBT in that it focuses on accepting your anxiety rather than avoiding it. The goal is to reduce the struggle to control anxiety and participate in activities that align with your personal values.
Biofeedback therapy encourages individuals to recognize their physiological responses when they are anxious. Biofeedback can help them learn relaxation techniques to manage these symptoms. For example, breath focus can help slow down breathing. Biofeedback is often used in combination with psychotherapy.
Medications are also known to help with anxiety symptoms. Here are some commonly prescribed medications for GAD.
Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are frequently used to treat anxiety symptoms. Most physicians will recommend an SSRI OR SNRI first before trying other medications.
Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines may be prescribed if panic attacks are present with anxiety. Because these drugs act quickly and may cause withdrawal symptoms, they usually aren’t prescribed for the long-term.
Azipirones: Azipirones like buspirone have fewer side effects than benzodiazepines. However, they may not be effective for people who have previously taken benzodiazepines.
Anxiety symptoms don’t go away immediately. It can take several weeks for therapy or medications to be effective. It’s important to talk with your doctor or therapist if you experience any new or persistent symptoms. They are there to help you find the treatment plan that works best for you.
Pyramid Healthcare offersoutpatient mental health treatmentfor adults and adolescents. Outpatient treatment may be ideal if you have mild symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or recently completed a higher level of care. We are also able to provideteletherapy services for outpatient care.