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Symptoms

Excessive anxiety and worry, more days than not for at least six months, about a number of events or activities.

The person finds it hard to control the worry.

The anxiety or worry is associated with at least 3 of the following:

Restlessness
Being easily fatigued
Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
Irritability
Muscle tension
Sleep disturbance

These cause significant distress or impairment in functioning.

Statistics

One in 20 people will suffer from generalized anxiety at some point in their life.

Treatment

Changing thoughts: People with generalized anxiety tend to focus on the “worse case scenarios” and all their ramifications, so they can be ready for it all should it happen! They hate uncertainty and try to problem-solve for every possible eventuality.

They overestimate the danger and underestimate they ability to cope. Cognitive re-structuring is used to correct these biases (overestimation and underestimation). Through therapy, one also learn to accept uncertainty as the stuff reality is made of: Very few things in life are certain, unchanging, and forever! Life is instead full of opportunities and new experiences, which permit new beginnings, growth and excitement.

Changing behaviors: People with generalized anxiety tend to procrastinate on making decisions or taking action (don’t want to make a move until they know for sure it is the right one). They seek reassurance from others or reassuring information.  Treatment includes changing these behavior patterns by learning to effectively approach and solve problems (e.g., by writing and doing) and through action and exposure to situations outside of one’s comfort zone, developing the self-confidence to reassure oneself that “whatever comes my way, I can handle it”.

Optional additional treatment strategies

Relaxation and Deep Breathing

Mindfulness and Acceptance: Learning to be in the here and now, and to suspend judgment (i.e., instead of labeling experiences as “good” or “bad”, accepting them the way they are).

Medication: SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are used to treat panic, like Paxil, Celexa, Lexapro, Luvox, Prozac, Zoloft, as are SNRIs (Selective Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) like Effexor.

Other antidepressants may also be used. Finally, benzodiazepines (e.g., Xanax, Rivotril, Ativan, Valium) are fast-acting drugs that can be used on an as needed basis.

Selected Book References

Feel the fear…and do it anyway.
Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. (2006).
Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-48742-7

10 simple solutions to worry.

Kevin Gyoerkoe, Ph.D. & Pamela Wiegartz, Ph.D. (2006).
New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 1-57224-465-8

Women who worry too much: How to stop worry and anxiety from ruining relationships, work and fun.
Holly Hazlett-Stevens, Ph.D. (2005).
New Harbinger Publications. ISBN 1-57224-412-7

The worry cure: Seven steps to stop worry from stopping you.
Robert Leahy, Ph.D. (2005).
Three Rivers Press. ISBN 1-4000-9766-5

The mindfulness and acceptance workbook for anxiety.
John Forsyth, Ph.D. & Georg Eiffert, Ph.D. (2007).
New Harbinger. ISBN-13: 978-157224-499-3


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