What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
Everyone worries from time to time about finances, the job, health, or family matters. For individuals with GAD, the worry is excessive, difficult to control, and unrealistic. In addition, GAD is accompanied by a range of physical symptoms, such as muscle aches, tension, soreness, sleepless nights, irritability, concentration difficulties, and restlessness. The worry and physical symptoms of GAD can persist for six months or longer, thus reinforcing the person’s feelings of helplessness and anxiety. Individuals with GAD are also more likely to develop additional anxiety disorders and depression.
There is hope for individuals with anxiety disorders, because these problems can be effectively treated with cognitive behavior therapy. Cognitive behavioral treatments typically involve four main components. Education about the nature of anxiety helps the individual understand his or her responses and teaches the individual ways to more effectively cope with anxiety. Somatic management skills teach relaxation and breathing techniques, which help the individual manage the physical symptoms and discomfort of anxiety. Cognitive skills address the individual’s beliefs and thoughts, and focus on teaching more adaptive, realistic thinking styles. And, all treatments for anxiety involve some form of behavioral exposure, a gradual, step-by-step confrontation of the fear with mastery and skill.
For many people, cognitive behavioral therapy alone will be enough to overcome or manage the various anxiety disorders. For some individuals, however, medication, in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy, can foster a return to a full and satisfying life.
What are Specific Phobias and Agoraphobia?
Dogs, spiders, injections, small rooms, thunderstorms, blood, elevators, crowds, driving, heights, and deep water can all cause a certain degree of unease in most individuals. It is relatively easy for most individuals to think about a particular situation or object that they would prefer to avoid. However, when that fear is persistent, or the individual’s life is disrupted when trying to avoid the cause of that fear, this is considered a specific phobia. Although individuals with specific phobias recognize that their fear is way out of proportion to the actual threat of the situation, they are unable to control the fear and may experience an anxiety attack when encountering the feared situation or object. As an example, individuals with a specific phobia of blood often faint when they see blood; the anxiety and, especially, fainting, make simple medical or dental procedures overwhelming. Agoraphobia, which is closely linked with panic attacks, is particularly disruptive because the person fears most any open space, thereby making simple tasks, such as grocery shopping, or even seeing a therapist, anxiety-provoking.