Frequently Asked Questions about Anxiety and GAD

anxiety disorder in a woman
1. What is Anxiety?

American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worry, intrusive thoughts and even physical symptoms like headaches, increased blood pressure etc. Anxiety is never identical to fear. while anxiety is a broadly future-oriented response to a widely diffused threat while fear is mostly a present-oriented to a specific threat in the environment.

Read: Anxiety: learn its symptoms, causes and treatment

2. What are the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder, as defined by APA, is the feeling of anxiety and worry about a range of concerns accompanied by feelings of restlessness, fatigue, sleeplessness etc. The major symptoms of GAD, outlined by DSM-V are

  • The presence of excessive worry over many issues for at least six months
  • Restlessness
  • Increased muscle aches
  • Impaired concentration
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia or sleeplessness
3. Is GAD as a mental health disorder, a rare occurrence?

Generalized anxiety disorder is never a rare instance. Research in India has found that almost 1.44% of their respondent students have severe anxiety, 14.35% have moderately severe anxiety and 36.36% have moderate anxiety, by employing the GAD-7 tool. The 2021 Healthy Minds survey, showed that 31% of college students have a lifetime diagnosis of anxiety disorder, where 34% of their respondents tested positive for Generalized Anxiety disorder.

4. How can one manage the symptoms of anxiety?
  • Exercise: Exercising is never just to take care of your physical health, rather it hugely helps you to cope with the stressors of your life. It helps produce neurotransmitters that improve your mood and your patterns of breathing hence helping you cope with anxiety.
  • Diet: Ensuring a nutritious and complete diet will keep your body fresh, hydrated and healthy. This can help you drastically manage your anxiety symptoms.
  • Relaxation strategies: Therapists suggest different variations of relaxation strategies that one can try to calm themselves. They calm our physical body, stabilize our breathing pattern and our heart rate and hence, stabilize our mind and thoughts for the time being. These are proven to be effective and are prescribed to individuals diagnosed with GAD.
5. What can worsen anxiety in an individual?

There are often multiple triggers in one’s environment that could worsen their anxiety.

  • Spending time with negative people: Although humans are social creatures, we seek other’s company, spending one’s time with people who never wish for your well-being can take a huge toll on your anxiety. One should try and spend their time and effort with those who validate them and their feelings.
  • Worry about others: Often, we tend to worry about others, especially our family and loved ones. This worry and, hence anxiety can also stem from thinking frequently about anything that may happen to them in the future.
  • Need to get everything right: Perfectionism is one of the major stimuli of anxiety. The need to get everything they do right and perfect makes them afraid of mistakes and failure and this could drive them highly anxious about the outcomes or results. They may try and keep on at a particular task trying to perfect it thus stressing themselves out.
6. Should I seek professional help to deal with my anxiety? If yes, when is the right time to seek help?

Being occasionally anxious and worrisome is very humane, but if it exceeds the unwritten limit, intruding and hampering one’s daily activities, then should be the right time as to when one should be seeking professional help to manage their anxiety. Symptoms like sleeplessness, trouble falling asleep, frequent panic breakdowns, constant overthinking, rampant loss of appetite, physiological discomfort like breathlessness, and constant vigilance for danger to an extent that hinders efficient daily activities, if found in an unhealthy frequency.

It is high time that one should consult a professional. But frankly speaking, there is exactly no right time to seek help, if one finds it difficult to manage their emotions, no matter how young the issue may be, they should visit a psychologist who could further guide them well.

7. Are there any medicines for generalized anxiety disorder?

Psychiatrists mostly anti-depressants like SSRI and SLRI to treat generalized anxiety disorders. These medicines alter and increase the levels of serotonin in the brain which helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety. The dose and the frequency for these and other anti-depressants are prescribed by the psychiatrist as and how the need may be. These are mostly not the first option for treating anxiety and are to be consumed strictly under the prescription of a psychiatrist as they entail numerous physiological side effects.

8. Is the right dose of medicine enough to manage GAD?

As mentioned earlier, medicines are never the first stop shop for treating anxiety. They are mostly prescribed coupled with various other relaxation strategies and exercises like meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction strategies etc. Individuals also undergo cognitive behavioural therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and various psychodynamic therapies, which are all proven effective in managing symptoms of anxiety. Cognitive behavioral therapy is in fact the standard therapy that is employed to help individuals tackle their anxiety symptoms.

9. Is there a genetic disposition for Generalized anxiety disorder?

Various research has shown that mental health disorders like generalized anxiety disorder are linked to specific genes. A 2015 study found that the inheritance of the RBFOX1 gene may make someone more vulnerable to generalized anxiety disorder. However, genetic disposition is never the only singular cause of developing GAD. There are high chance that one can develop anxiety without having inherited the genes linked to it. One can also be vulnerable to developing anxiety due to his or her various complex environmental factors.

10. How should one respond to or deal with a friend or a family member who is diagnosed with anxiety?
  • It is always really hard to watch your loved ones becoming vulnerable to any physical or mental ailments and the same goes with having a friend or family member diagnosed with anxiety. But there are multiple tiny things that one can carry out to make the time you spend together with them a safe haven for them.
  • One should know the multiple symptoms of anxiety. Knowing these would help them spot when someone’s anxiety escalates. Even though these symptoms vary from person to person, they can be divided into 3 categories physical, behavioural and emotional symptoms which include a chunk of symptoms within them.
  • One should be able to assure the person with anxiety that their feelings are valid enough and there is nothing shameful in feeling them. This can provide them immense amount of emotional support during their challenging moments.

Being a good and empathetic listener can do wonders in the life of someone suffering from anxious thoughts. Just be there for them and listen to what they have to say without any judgmental thoughts. But if you identify that the person is not able to manage their emotions by themselves and this is taking a toll on their daily life, try and suggest visiting a therapist. Do not force them to visit one, rather, slowly bring up the topic of visiting a therapist and suggest a viable plan for the same, because, for many of them, the thought of having to visit a therapist can be quite challenging, unfortunately, due to our societal conditioning.

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