About Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is a disorder marked by an excessive, often irrational level of worry about everyday events to an extent that exceeds that justified by underlying causes. Physical symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder can include such things as fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, difficulty breathing, difficulty concentrating, trembling, twitching, irritability, agitation, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, hot flashes, rashes, nausea, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension, muscle aches, and difficulty swallowing. These symptoms can become debilitating, preventing normal life and function. There is strong evidence that such high levels of anxiety have a genetic origin and may in fact be inheritable, although triggering and traumatic events may also be a causative factor.
The primary treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder involves therapy and/or medication. Many authorities believe that cognitive behavioral therapy is superior to medication, due to the side effects of many of the more commonly prescribed drugs for anxiety. Cognitive behavior therapy works to change negative thought patterns that produce anxiety, and replace them with positive, more realistic ways of thinking. Therapy often will also include exposure strategies to allow the patient to gradually confront their anxieties and feel more comfortable in anxiety-provoking situations, as well as providing an opportunity to practice the skills they have learned.
Though the average age of diagnosis for Generalized Anxiety Disorder is 31, symptoms often appear in childhood or adolescence. It is not uncommon for a teen to turn to drugs or alcohol to self medicate their symptoms of anxiety. Because of adverse reaction to the commonly prescribed medications, including a heightened risk of suicidal thoughts or actions, it is especially important for parents to identify symptoms of overwhelming anxiety and seek help for teenagers with the disorder.