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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

by Jennifer B. Buckley

Feeling stressed as a caregiver isn’t an unusual side effect of the role, but the time to become alarmed is when disruptive and unfounded thoughts about money, family or health consume your day. If your worrying has become excessive or unbearable and it interferes with your work, private or social life, you may have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

Generalized anxiety disorder is a chronic disorder characterized by constant anxiety or worry for a period of six months or longer about two or more life circumstances. Your job, family or care recipient, for example, are classified as life circumstances. People who have GAD often complain about insomnia and an inability to concentrate.

Dorothy, an office manager and caregiver, who has been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder said, “I spend most of my day worrying about my mother who lives with cancer. I have a difficult time sleeping and concentrating and the stress filters into my job and family life.” GAD affects nearly five percent of Americans, most of who are women and symptoms include: trembling, fatigue, muscle aches, heart palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, headaches and chills. Symptoms can begin at any phase of life and the disorder is highly treatable. Treatment of GAD consists of medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy and dietary change.

The symptoms of GAD can be treated with medications. In some cases, people with anxiety disorders are treated with Sedative drugs, antihistamines and mild tranquilizers; along with anti-anxiety medications, Benzodiazepines, Neuroleptic and monoamine inhibitors. But, new research from Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories may indicate an anti-depressant medication called, Effexor XR, is more effective for long-term treatment of symptoms. Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories, a division of American Home Products Corporation, is a major research-oriented pharmaceutical company with leading products in the areas of women’s health care, cardiovascular therapies, anti-inflammatory agents, hemophilia, infectious diseases, and oncology. According to researchers at Wyeth-Ayerst Research, anti-anxiety medications have been associated with drowsiness and the potential for addiction, while new data shows the anti-depressant Effexor XR is a safe and effective alternative to current treatments for GAD. The Food and Drug Administration has reported Effexor XR is the first and only antidepressant now indicated for short and long term benefits for people with GAD. It is also effective in the treatment of women experiencing hot flashes. Research shows medication along with cognitive-behavioral therapy yields the best results for this disorder.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing cognitive, behavioral and emotional patterns. The therapist using this form of therapy attempts to recondition the thinking process of the patient to allow him to think healthfully and integrate relaxation techniques in order to altar a behavior, like anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a proven therapy to treat many kinds of anxiety disorders. Along with medication and cognitive–behavioral therapy, a dietary change could be necessary in the treatment of GAD.

Research shows hyperventilation, excessive caffeine intake, could be directly attributed to generalized anxiety disorder. If you drink coffee or other drinks with caffeine you could be increasing the severity and persistence of your GAD symptoms. Caffeine and other stimulants should be reduced in your diet and inform your doctor about the amount of caffeine you are consuming.
You should feel comfortable consulting your doctor about any physical symptoms of GAD, like headaches or shortness of breath, as well as, any non-physical symptoms like tension or worrying. More primary care providers today, are taking an interest and becoming more involved in the treatment of their patient’s mental health, according to the National Mental Health Association.

Without proper treatment of GAD, other physical and emotional illnesses such as: clinical depression, substance abuse and irritable bowel syndrome can develop. Being a caregiver is a rewarding but challenging role. If you are experiencing any symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, you deserve proper and timely treatment.

Information was provided by the National Mental Health Association and Wyeth-Ayerst Pharmaceuticals.


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