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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects nearly seven million (or more than three percent) of adults in the nation, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. These individuals have difficulties controlling their worries. They may worry more than is necessary about actual events or expect the worst outcome when there seems to be no reason for their concern.

People with GAD often are unable to rest because of their persistent worrying, and it can affect their performance on the job and school, as well cause difficulties in relationships. Sometimes everyday tasks become difficult to accomplish.

Females are more apt to be diagnosed with the disorder, experiencing it twice as much as men. It is typical in individuals who are between 45 and 50 years old and commonly decreases after age 60.

Criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM-5 300.02 F41.1

Many GAD symptoms mirror those found in depression. Sometimes this makes it difficult for the health care professional to properly diagnose the disorder. When individuals are misdiagnosed, they do not get the treatment they need for GAD.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)* has identified the criteria for GAD. The individual must meet all of the following criteria in order to be diagnosed with the disorder.

  • Extreme anxiousness and worrying that occurs for at least one-half year and is present for a greater amount of days than it is not. The worrying is about several things.
  • The person is not able to manage the worrying.
  • The anxiousness and worrying are related to a minimum of three of the symptoms below. In youngsters, only one symptom is necessary.
  • Feels irritable and unsettled.
  • Tires tired quickly.
  • Tension in muscles.
  • Sleep is difficult, including waking up, being able to fall asleep and not feeling refreshed after a night of sleep.
  • The worrying and other symptoms have resulted in extreme anxiety and an inability to be able to perform tasks on the job, at school and in everyday life.
  • The symptoms are not caused by a different type of disorder.

*The DSM-5 is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

Is There Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM-5 300.02 F41.1?

People with GAD can find successful treatment with therapy, medicine or both.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy can help the individual learn other avenues of thought instead of the worries, as well as the way he responds to different settings that cause the worry. The individual can find techniques that will help him to relax, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and exercise.

An individual with GAD may find that a support group for anxiety is helpful. He may find he is able to relate to others in the group who experience the same type of worrying behavior and share ways to cope with worrisome thoughts.

Suggestions for Dealing with Anxiety

If you are getting treatment for GAD and want to ensure that you are managing the worries and anxieties the best you can, there are a few things to practice that may help you. The following are a few things to do when the worries start to take over.

  • Deep breathing is used to lessen anxiety. Inhale and count slowly, then hold your breath for a few seconds, and exhale for several seconds. Repeat the deep breathing exercise until you feel some of the stress dissipating.
  • Envision that you are at a favorite vacation spot, a serene park or in the garden. You can picture the waves of the ocean, the wind blowing through the leaves of the trees and the different flowers in the garden. This is called visualization, and it may calm you down when the anxiety strikes.
  • If you are worrying about something that might happen in the future, step back and try to think about the current moment. Keep your attention on the present instead of concentrating on the “what ifs” and all the worries that plague you.
  • Do the things you need to do, such as cleaning a room, meeting friends and shopping for groceries. Ask yourself what you would do if you were not feeling the anxiety at the moment. Take the first step to taking care of the “to do” list, and get some of the things done. The busier you are, the better you will feel. Even if you still feel anxious after some of the tasks are completed, it is much better than stopping everything and concentrating on the anxiety.
  • When you are in the midst of anxiety, your brain may be coming up with all types of things that are probably not likely to happen and are unrealistic. This makes the anxiety worse. For instance, if you are about to give a presentation at a meeting and are having thoughts that you will not be able to do it, question your worries. Are the worries realistic? Is the situation you are worrying about likely to happen? What is the worst thing that can happen? What if the worst thing that can happen actually does—how will you be able to prepare for it?

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