There are many types of anxiety, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic disorder, agoraphobia, specific phobias, social anxiety disorder, and more. To keep things simple, I will focus here on Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD.
What is Generalized Anxiety?
Excessive anxiety and worry (apprehensive expectation), occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance).
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 6 months):
- Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge.
- Being easily fatigued.
- Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank.
- Muscle tension.
- Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless, unsatisfying sleep).*
Who is at risk for GAD?
GAD affects all ages and is more prevalent in those between the ages of 20 and 60. The exact cause is not known, but evidence points to biology, family history, and stressful life experiences.
What tools are used to assess anxiety?
There are a number of online informal screening tools which are easily accessible and can be used by individuals. (Click here for a list)
And qualified counselors/therapists/or psychologists may use any of the screening tools listed here
What treatments or therapies are available?
GAD is most often treated with either medication or talk therapy. A combination of the two therapies together has been shown to be the most efficacious. Pharmacological medicines used to treat GAD include the following:
- SSRI antidepressants such as Lexapro (escitalopram), Celexa (citalopram), Effexor (venlafaxine), Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Buspirone, or BuSpar which belongs to a class of drugs called anxiolytics
- Benzodiazepines (benzos) such as Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), or Ativan (lorazepam). Benzos are not recommended for long term use as they can become habit forming and are not useful for those who have drug or alcohol addictions.
CBT has been shown to be one of the most effective talk therapy modalities to be used with GAD. For study results click here and here and here.
*Information taken from Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) V, American Psychiatric Association, 2013