Coping with anxiety is not easy, especially when such anxiety disorders are among the most common mental disorders worldwide. It is estimated that GAD, or generalized anxiety disorder, affects almost 6.8 million adults in America yearly, or almost 3% of its population. Sadly, GAD is actually the least successfully treated type of anxiety disorder.
When a person has GAD, he worries about a wide range of topics and his anxiety is not limited to a short period of time, but can last for months or years. But fortunately, GAD can be treated with medication, a healthy diet, mind-body practices and exercise.
Coping With Anxiety – Generalized Anxiety Disorder
GAD, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, is “a condition characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work or other issues.”
What are some of the biggest sources of worry among people with GAD? Well, it can include work or school performance, natural disasters, finances, health, job security, relationships, spouse or children.
Doctors generally diagnosed a person with GAD when he finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months, displaying at least three or more of the GAD symptoms such as worrying and feeling nervous or irritable, out of control, difficulty tolerating uncertainty or new situations, difficulties focusing on tasks at work and school, insomnia, easily startled, fatigue and symptoms such as increased heart rate, rapid breathing, chest pains, sweating and trembling often.
Other symptoms include difficulty eating and swallowing normally, with frequent headaches, muscle aches, stomach pains or diarrhoea. Psychiatrists will often make a diagnosis based on a conversation with a patient about their symptoms, plus make a physical examination to rule out other health issues.
Often, the rates of missed diagnosis of GAD are high, as many sufferers thought that their symptoms were just physical illnesses.
Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Many factors seem to cause GAD, including genetics, family history and background, biological factors, life experiences such as loss of family members, accidents or trauma, or lifestyle factors such as drugs and alcohol, exercise, sleep, and diet.
Some other causes include the following:
- Disturbances in several parts of the brain that regulate fear.
- A history of depression.
- Having a timid or negative personality.
- Being a woman, child, teen or middle-aged person.
- Living in a busy, industrialized country, such as Singapore.
Coping With Anxiety – Treatment Options
GAD patients are usually put on medications used to treat anxiety, and this can include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), the serotonergic medication called Buspirone, sedative medications like benzodiazepines or antidepressants.
Unfortunately, despite medications, 30% to 60% of patients with GAD do not achieve remission after treatment, though natural remedies such as relaxation or mindfulness-based methods have been quite useful in certain cases, and provide patients with an option to be relieved of their anxiety. Here are five treatment methods or options that you can consider.
Therapy, particularly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help “train” your brain to better control your thoughts and emotions.
It has been found to be help change thoughts, physical symptoms and behaviours of people with GAD, especially children and teenagers. CBT works by restructuring thought patterns and gradually exposing someone to their fears to let them learn that the outcome is not as bad as they may have expected. Studies show that between 45% to 75% of people with GAD respond positively to CBT.
2. Relaxation Practices and Mindfulness Approaches
Relaxation therapies can help patients to manage both symptoms of fear and physical feelings such as a rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating or overwhelming emotions or thoughts.
Mindfulness training and other mind-body practices like these work to lower anxiety by increasing awareness of present-moment experiences, including thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations, and often lead to a reduction in stress hormones and improves the quality of sleep.
Other mindfulness approaches include Acceptance Commitment Therapy, have also been investigated with positive outcomes for anxiety.
3. A Healthy Lifestyle
A healthy lifestyle is also needed in coping with anxiety. It is certainly vital in dealing with anxiety. Exercise is a natural stress reliever and a healthy diet can help to supply the essential nutrients that support mental health, and keeping your stress levels under control.
Have a regular sleep and wake cycle with at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night, and stay organized preferably with a calendar. You may also want to keep a journal for all your thoughts and worries, or list down your tasks in order of priority.
Also, get out for exercise regularly. Aerobics and cardiovascular exercises are good for you as they help to release endorphins and lift your mood. As much as possible, eat healthily, with balanced meals and do not go without eating as this can worsen your anxiety.
Some foods you can eat include wild-caught fish like salmon and mackerel, probiotic foods like yogurt, leafy greens like spinach or kale, nuts and seeds like walnuts and almonds, fresh fruits like blueberries and bananas, healthy fats like avocado and olive oil and beans and legumes. Avoid excessive alcohol, caffeine or sugar intake as studies have found that avoiding alcohol lowers anxiety.
4. Natural Supplements
Coping with anxiety also means that you need to take care of all aspects of your health. There are some natural supplements that can help you further manage symptoms of anxiety:
- Adaptogen herbs such as ashwagandha and kava root, which helps to keep cortisol levels under control and support the thyroid and adrenal glands
- Magnesium and a vitamin B complex, which can regulate energy levels, blood sugar levels and metabolic processes, and many nerve and muscle functions
- GABA, an amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter that can help boost the mood and have a calming effect.
- Essential oils like chamomile oil and lavender oil, which have natural calming properties.
- Turmeric curcumin. Turmeric root powder originates from the Curcuma longa plant, a species of ginger native to Southeast Asia. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.
GAD is a condition that can last longer than you thought, but as long as you manage it well with medications and these methods of relief, everything will turn out very well for you. Coping with anxiety can be easier if you also keep your loved ones near you.