Treatment options available for GAD

A little worry is normal, but people who constantly worry about daily concerns, even when times are good, may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

GAD is excessive worry that lasts at least six months and disrupts daily activities, according to the March issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource. Typically starting during middle age and more common in older adults, GAD affects an estimated 4 to 7 percent of adults 65 and older and often goes hand in hand with depression or other anxiety disorders, such as phobias.

It’s believed that people with GAD have abnormal levels of brain chemicals that affect the response to stressful or uncertain situations. This overactive fear circuitry in the brain can cause a person to view many situations, even harmless ones, as threats.

Other signs and symptoms of GAD include irritability; inability to relax; difficulty concentrating; muscle aches and headaches; trouble falling or staying asleep; gastrointestinal discomfort or diarrhea; trembling or twitching; sweating, light-headedness or shortness of breath.

Several treatment options are available, but finding relief may take some time. Treatment options include:

Cognitive behavioral therapy: This type of psychotherapy focuses on identifying and changing the thinking patterns that reinforce anxiety or reactions to stressful situations. Short-term treatment usually lasts about 12 weeks.

Medications: Several categories of medications can effectively treat anxiety. Some medications may not be fully effective for up to two months. Often, medications are used in combination with cognitive behavioral therapy. Antidepressants considered for GAD treatment include venlafaxine (Effexor), duloxetine (Cymbalta), paroxetine (Paxil), citalopram (Celexa) and escitalopram (Lexapro). The anti-anxiety medication buspirone (BuSpar) can be effective for GAD and can be taken with antidepressants.

Other medications, called benzodiazepines, may be prescribed for short periods. Options include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan) and alprazolam (Xanax).

Self-care: Exercise produces chemical changes that can calm the body and combat anxiety. Meditation, yoga, music and massages promote relaxation and can ease anxiety. Healthy eating, with regular meals and energy-boosting snacks, is helpful, as is avoiding caffeine and nicotine.

SOURCE Mayo Clinic Women’s HealthSource

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