It is estimated that as many as 40 million Americans suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder
, or GAD. Conditions which are characterized by severe anxiety, sudden mood swings or emotional instability are generally grouped under the term “anxiety disorders”.
Included under this heading are also conditions known as “specific phobias”, that involve the unreasonable fear of a specific object (such as spiders or snakes), or circumstances (such as driving or heights). Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by persistent and unfocused anxiety which can give rise to several other health issues, and individuals who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder also tend to experience fatigue and sleep disturbances.The condition is defined as unfocused and pervasive anxiety that persists for a period of over 6 months and is accompanied by other symptoms. These associated conditions may include fatigue, memory loss, muscle tension and pain, and increased irritability. When GAD occurs in children, it is called “overanxous disorder of childhood”. Generalized Anxiety Disorder differs from specific phobias by its general, pervasive nature that cannot be directly attributed to any one specific element or object. It also lacks the focused, acute distress associated with panic disorders, OCD and phobias associated with social situations. The excessive worrying of GAD can be focused on any area of life, such as work, relationships, finances, health, impending challenges; or all of them concurrently. Anxiety disorders can also manifest in the body to cause physical symptoms that are similar to those associated with panic attacks.Women are about twice as likely to suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder as are men. About half of all patients experience the onset of the condition during childhood or the teenage years. The disorder is often cyclical in nature, with periods of symptomatic worsening that seem to be connected to times of increased stress or difficulties. Research has not been able to firmly establish a link between Generalized Anxiety Disorder and heredity. However, there does seem to be a link between first degree relatives who develop generalized anxiety disorder which prompts researchers to wonder if part of the condition results from the patient’s learned behaviors.