Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Individuals with Generalized Disorder have excessive anxiety and worry, more days than not, for at least six months. They feel that they just cannot help worring about things and having almost constant feelings of anxiety. The anxiety and worry are often far out of proportion to the troubles that would be caused by the actual event, should it occur. Levels of generalized anxiety are apt to lead to restlessness, fatigue, problems with concentration, irritability, muscle tension and troubled sleep.
Because of the great variety of worries involved in Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the pattern is often refered to as "free floating anxiety". This disorder may can begin at any age, but it most often starts in childhood or adolescence. The prevalence of General Anxiety Disorder was about 3% in a community sample, but about 12% of people treated in clinics are diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
There are many pausible explanations of generalized anxiety disorder. Rapid social and cultural changes are stressful to individuals and can produce anxiety symptoms. Media reports of murders, rapes, child abductions, and negative economic trends terrorism and war can do likewise.
The actual problems of living in poverty with its increased crime rates, fewer opportunities for education and employment, poor lowered incomes and job instability, and various threats to family cohesivness and child welfare can all lead to heightened levels of anxiety.
Some psychologists believe that generalized anxiety disorder is related to a childhood history of a lack of what is called unconditional positive regard. From this perspective, children learn “conditions of worth”, meaning that they feel they are worthy of respect only when they are living up to certain parental standards. It is thought that such individuals have learned to be overly critical and harsh in their judgement of themselves. These individuals may try to defend themselves against feelings of inadequacy, but when the defenses fail they may feel anxiety and/or depression. Others see a connection between early abandonment, physical abuse, withnessing violence, and/or experiencing frightening unpredictable chaotic environments.
Another psychological perspective refers to “existential anxiety” as a universal fear in humans about the responsibilites that one has for their own existence, including both the limits and freedoms that they must confront. When faced by the challenges of life, it is thought that many are not authentic, but rather give-in to conformity, fail to exercise their freedom of personal choice, and deny and avoid those things they fear. The avoidance of personal responsibility in these struggles is thought to lead to a variety of anxiety problems.
Cognitive explanations of generalized anxiety have to do with the maladaptive thoughts,assumptions or beliefs that people adopt about themselves and others in their lives. For example some people foolishly believe--to the extreme--that they must be loved and approved of by everyone that they find significant; that it is horrible, awful and catastrophic when things do not go the way they want them to; or that if something could be dangerous or fearsome, one should be highly concerned and upset about it and should dwell upon its possible occurrence. Other psychologists have implicated automatic thoughts that cause anxiety such as “People will know that I am stupid”; “I will make a fool of myself”; “They will laugh at me”; “I know that I will fail”, etc. Indeed, such self-statements can cause one to feel anxious.
From a biological perspective various studies have found that generalized anxiety disorder is more common among blood relatives and identical twins than among more genetically disimilar individuals. Also, a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) has been implicated in generalized anxiety disorder. Medications that help neurons to receive GABA molecules appear to allow for increased GABA signals within the brain so it can slow down various anxiety signals that the individual must cope with.
Finally, there is evidence that teaching relaxation methods to those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorders people can offer some help in aiding sufferers to manage this problem more effectively. This and other cognitive interventions suggests that anxiety, to a significant degree, can be helped by personal skills that have been learned.
Those with anxiety problems should see their physician for a physical check-up first and then seek professional help from a psychologist specializing in anxiety management.