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Understanding anxiety

Worries caused by generalized anxiety disorder can disrupt your daily life. But there are treatments that can help you control anxiety.

It's more than the jitters or simple concerns. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can bring feelings of extreme tension, fear and worry into your life at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

GAD often begins between childhood and middle age, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). GAD is also more likely to occur in people with a family history of anxiety.

Symptoms of GAD include:

  • Constant worrying that you can't control, even if you know you're overreacting.
  • Trouble sleeping or relaxing.
  • Trembling, twitching or tense muscles.
  • Headaches.
  • Crankiness.
  • Sweating or hot flashes.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Feeling light-headed.

Unlike some other anxiety disorders, GAD usually doesn't cause people to avoid going out in public. But severe, untreated cases of GAD can disrupt a person's everyday activities.

Get back that mellow feeling

If you have excessive worry or anxiety along with any of the other GAD symptoms, talk to your doctor. Treatment can help. According to the NIMH, ways to treat GAD include:

Medication. Medicine can't cure GAD, but it can help ease anxiety. Several anti-anxiety medicines are available.

Cognitive behavioral therapy. This therapy helps people change the way they react to the things that make them anxious. One common technique teaches people breathing exercises to help ease their anxiety.

In cognitive therapy, people also learn how to better respond to the things that trigger their anxiety. Cognitive therapy also helps people to understand and change the thought patterns that lead to anxiety.

Reviewed 3/14/2024

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