Everyone has experienced anxiety at one time or another, such as before a test or a job interview. However, when excessive anxiety begins to interfere with your daily life, you may have generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, fifth edition, symptoms for generalized anxiety disorder are as follows:
• Excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school).
• The individual finds it difficult to control the worry.
• The anxiety and worry are associated with three or more of the following six symptoms (with at least some symptoms having been present for more days than not for the past six months):
1. Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
2. Being easily fatigued
3. Difficulty concentrating
5. Muscle tension
6. Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, restless, unsatisfying sleep)
• The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other areas of functioning.
• The disturbance is not attributable to the psychological effects of a substance or other medical condition.
• The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder.
It’s important to remember that some anxiety is normal. However, if you meet the criteria above, seek advice from a medical professional. There are various treatments that can help reduce or eliminate symptoms such as psychotherapy (including cognitive behavioral therapy) and medications. Aerobic activity, diet and getting adequate sleep have been shown to help reduce anxiety symptoms.
If you would like additional information on generalized anxiety, including support groups, treatment, and how you can help a loved one, go to the National Alliance for Mentally Ill website at http://nami.org or call NAMI California at (916) 567-0163.
Suzanne Ely is a health information consultant at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.