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It was only very recently that issues surrounding mental health began to inch their way into the spotlight. Nowadays, an individual’s overall well-being is no longer solely based on the physical condition; one’s psychological health must also be considered. However, given the ongoing investigation into the deepest recesses of the human mind, many individuals remain uninformed about the specific mental illnesses that plague the lives of so many. Through the Mind Over Matter series of articles, it is my goal to identify and differentiate between some of the common psychological disorders recognized today, beginning with one of the most broadly characterized: generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, is comprised of extreme concern over the simplest experiences, which often leads to difficulty managing daily life. Familial relationships, social situations, and financial responsibilities are all possible sources of heightened anxiety for someone with GAD. Approximately 3.1% of adults in America suffer from this condition. Both adults and children are at risk of developing GAD, but the average patient is 31 years old. Women are also more prone to the disorder than men, and some studies suggest that GAD is passed down genetically.

Even simple tasks can be difficult for people with GAD. Source: Volanthevist

Diagnosing generalized anxiety disorder can be difficult because its symptoms resemble those of other anxiety and panic disorders. Important signs to look for include disproportionate anxiety over an event, restlessness, inability to concentrate, and fear of making a bad decision. GAD also takes a toll on an individual’s physical health, often manifesting through fatigue, headaches, nausea, muscle tension, and lightheadedness, just to name a few symptoms.

As with many other psychological illnesses, generalized anxiety disorder is frequently treated with some combination of psychotherapy and prescription medication. On the therapeutic front, a technique called cognitive behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in altering an affected individual’s thought process to reduce their anxiety. Medications typically include anti-anxiety or antidepressant drugs to combat the chemical imbalances in the brain; however, these pills can have serious side effects and usage should always be monitored by a healthcare professional.

Mental illnesses like generalized anxiety disorder tend to be lifelong battles that require the utmost care and support. If you or someone you know is diagnosed with such a disorder, make sure to find out what you can do to help. For more information, visit the National Institute of Mental Health website here.

Feature Image Source: panic anxiety 031 by Alessandra

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