Generalized Anxiety Disorder

" . . .when you don’t have any money, the problem is food. When you have money, it’s sex. When you have both it’s health, . . . if everything is simply jake (o.k.) then you’re frightened of death.

. . .J.P.Donleavy, The Ginger Man

* * *Silvia called her 20-year-old daughter every two hours to assure herself that her daughter was o.k., although there was no reason to believe that she was not. Silvia found it hard to concentrate at work and was exhausted at the end of the day.

* * *Frank took care of everything for everyone in his family. Because he was the eldest son he felt it was his responsibility even though all of his family members, including his children, were adults with full mental and physical capabilities. Frank went to the emergency room several times with chest pain and no physical cause was ever found.

* * *Dorothy was called by everyone, friends and family alike, for advice or complaints.She felt guilty if she didn’t respond to their needs because she cared so much about them. Dorothy began to develop stomach problems and felt more and more overwhelmed.

* * *Harry accepted every task presented to him at work because he took pleasure in giving 110% to everything he did and he knew he could accomplish these tasks better than anyone else. Harry eventually burned out and had to take a leave of absence from work.

* * *Silvia, Frank, Dorothy and Harry were all suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. It is estimated that 20% of the population will develop this form of anxiety reaction. Symptoms can emerge in early adulthood, often beginning in childhood, but not become troublesome until we reach our thirties.

While overload or increased responsibility and stress can precipitate this reaction it is usually not the cause. The old nature/nurture argument comes into play with GAD as with all of the anxiety disorders. Some mental health professionals feel that there is a genetic predisposition and others feel that this reaction is a learned behavior. The fact is, however, that even if there is a genetic predisposition, just as in physical disorders, it does not mean that one is destined to develop in a particular way. If someone knows that heart disease runs in the family and reduces his/her lifestyle risks, he/she can live a full life without ever having a heart attack.The very good news is that most anxiety disorders are easier to treat than cardiac disease! Those who suffer with GAD can find relief through anxiety-management techniques like diaphragmatic breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and cognitive restructuring. Medication is generally used only to provide quick relief from acute episodes or as an adjunct to therapy.

Silvia, Frank, Dorothy, and Harry all found relief with cognitive-behavioral therapy within 8-9 months (Silvia was actually discharged after 3 sessions). Frank took medication for the first five months of therapy.

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