Stress and anxiety are part of our everyday lives—but if worrying becomes difficult to manage and interferes with the ability to complete daily activities, these could be signs of an anxiety disorder. Millions of people worldwide experience anxiety, making it the most common of all mental disorders.

Though anxiety is extremely prevalent, there are tons of treatment options available to help. With effective and personalized treatment, individuals can directly tackle the root causes of their anxiety, learn coping mechanisms that work for them, and regain control and balance in their lives.

In this article, we will explore common causes and symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in adults and the different treatment options available to address the condition—from long-utilized treatment methods to innovative new approaches.

Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a persistent state of heightened anxiety that extends well beyond everyday stressors. People impacted by GAD find themselves caught in a loop of uncontrollable worry, influencing their emotional well-being and daily behaviors. The excessive worry caused by GAD can feel almost inescapable. It’s a pervasive feeling that completely controls someone’s perception of the world.

Everyday life experiences and events can trigger symptoms of anxiety. Chronic worry can start with thoughts about common life challenges—like work or school performance, financial security, caring for loved ones, health issues, social relationships, and more. However, unlike normal feelings of worry that come and go, chronic worry never completely resolves, even during moments meant to be celebratory or relaxing.

Common Symptoms of Anxiety

Anxiety can take a physical toll on the body, manifesting in several symptoms that interrupt daily life and get in the way of feeling relaxed or fulfilled. Experiencing any of these anxiety symptoms can feel frightening and isolating—but because anxiety is so common, there are more people who can understand these feelings than you might expect.

Symptoms of anxiety can include:

  • Excessive worry
  • Difficulty controlling the worry
  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating or frequently losing train of thought
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension, aches and pains
  • Sleep disturbances (like difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or restless sleep)

Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for understanding the complex nature of anxiety and getting connected with the necessary support. Whether you’re ready to consult a medical professional or simply want to start a conversation with loved ones, tracking symptoms and their patterns will be helpful.

Identifying Generalized Anxiety Disorder

To comprehensively diagnose GAD, a mental health clinician will ask how long an individual has been experiencing symptoms of anxiety. They’ll also ask if these symptoms have caused significant distress or interruption in social relationships, work or school, or other important areas of daily functioning.

If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety, the best way to start tackling them is to talk with a licensed mental health clinician. They’ll lead you through certain diagnostic steps in order to understand your experience and identify which specific treatment options could help.

To best manage anxiety, a strong support system and the right tools and resources can keep you on track. That’s why asking for help is so important. Licensed mental health clinicians have the skills and the empathy to guide you through this maze of emotions.

How to Deal with Anxiety

With the help of effective treatment, coping mechanisms, and professional guidance, millions of people globally are finding the tools needed to manage their anxiety and find relief.

Coping Mechanisms for Anxiety

Coping mechanisms can help build useful skills for addressing anxious thoughts. Research has proven these methods are associated with reducing anxiety over time. However, they rarely offer a one-size-fits-all solution and work more effectively alongside medical treatment.

Relaxation Techniques

Unchecked anxiety can escalate into what’s known as a panic attack, triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response. Individuals can experience a rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. During these critical moments, practicing relaxation skills can help.

Deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and grounding techniques provide a tangible means of calming the nervous system. By redirecting focus to the present moment, these techniques help relieve physical tension and disrupt the cycle of persistent worry. These techniques can be helpful in the short-term, but it’s important to address the root causes of anxiety to prevent future attacks.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation are effective tools for cultivating awareness and breaking free from the cycle of negative thinking caused by anxiety. Mindfulness encourages living in the present moment without judgment, creating a sense of acceptance. Regular meditation sessions contribute to a calmer mind and reduced stress. Both practices can lead to new outlooks on life’s challenges, making them easier to navigate.

Mindfulness and meditation can feel uncomfortable or awkward at first. If that’s the case for you, try guided sessions with a professional to stay on track.

Lifestyle Changes for Positive Long-term Habits

Though they can’t cure anxiety alone, positive lifestyle changes have a huge impact on feelings of stress or loss of control. Making time for quality sleep, regular physical activity, and a nutritious diet improve overall health, serve as a major stress reliever, and provide a solid foundation for anxiety management.

Social Support and Communication

Expressing thoughts and feelings with a strong support system is essential for managing anxiety. Those with anxiety often feel like a burden to others and become withdrawn, but anxiety thrives on feelings of isolation. Instead, engage with friends, family, or a mental health professional. Making space for open communication and connections nurtures a sense of belonging and reinforces the idea that you’re never alone.

Seeking Professional Help

While coping strategies can make a difference, anxiety management is most effective with the help of a trained mental health specialist. Therapy provides a structured space to explore and address sources of anxiety. A clinician might also recommend medication to better manage symptoms. Either way, the experience should feel collaborative, working to find an effective approach to managing anxiety for the long-term.

Treatment Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Traditional Treatment Options

Traditional treatment options for anxiety involve medication and therapy, offering individuals comprehensive strategies to manage symptoms and escape the negative thought patterns created by anxiety.

Anti-Anxiety Medications

Medications, specifically anti-anxiety medications, are often prescribed to manage symptoms. Two classes of medications are most commonly prescribed: benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Benzodiazepines work by enhancing the effects of the neurotransmitter GABA, inducing a calming effect. While effective in providing rapid relief, they are generally recommended for short-term use. SSRIs regulate serotonin levels in the brain and is considered safer for long-term use.

Successful medication-based treatment is all about finding the right balance. Clinicians work with their patients to find the right dosage, with the goal of meeting each person’s unique needs and minimizing side effects.

Therapy

Talking with a licensed therapist is a long-standing approach for treating anxiety. Skilled therapists work with their clients to target the negative thought patterns that underline anxiety, equipping individuals with practical tools to identify, challenge, and modify these patterns. Therapy is proven to foster adaptive thinking and coping mechanisms that lead to sustained relief and reduction in symptoms.

More Options for Treatment-Resistant Anxiety

While therapy and medication are proven treatments, innovative approaches—like ketamine-assisted therapy, Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), neurofeedback, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and stellate ganglion blocks—show promising results and could be effective for those who may not respond to traditional options alone.

Ketamine-Assisted Therapy

The latest research on ketamine-assisted therapy offers promising results for addressing treatment-resistant traumatic stress, depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. During treatment, patients are administered individualized low doses of ketamine and led through a guided therapy session. Research suggests this can increase the brain’s neuroplasticity, or the ability to change thinking patterns and adapt to experiences.

Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (dTMS)

Deep TMS is a non-invasive treatment option that uses electromagnetic impulses to stimulate neurotransmitter production in the brain and increase the brain’s neuroplasticity. Deep TMS is FDA-approved to help with depression, OCD, anxious depression, and smoking cessation. With little to no side effects, deep TMS is an effective option for those with treatment-resistant anxiety.

Neurofeedback

Neurofeedback is an FDA-approved treatment and works to retrain the brain by reorganizing and regulating brainwave frequencies with a computerized feedback program. Immedietaly following each hour-long session, many patients report improved focus and long-lasting relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression.

At Plus by APN, we pair this treatment with quantitative electroencephalogram (qEEG) brain mapping. With this tool, you and your treatment team will measure different wavelengths and create a 3D rendering of your brain—allowing us to measure your cognitive function and track progress.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a long-standing treatment for wounds, chronic diseases, and serious infections due to its healing effects. For anxiety and depression, new research has shown it could be an effective non-invasive treatment. In a special pressurized room, patients breathe 100% pure oxygen, stimulating the immune system and reducing inflammation.

Stellate Ganglion Blocks (SGB)

SGB is an injection into the stellate ganglion nerve that helps reduce symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and anxiety. SGB is designed to complement other treatment modalities, like therapy, allowing your care team to go even further in addressing mental health conditions without the burden of symptoms of severe stress or trauma.

Complementary Therapies

Anxiety is a deeply personal experience. What might help one manage their anxiety may not work as well for another. Most often, the most effective approach will include a combination of multiple treatment modalities rather than just a single option. Each care team creates a comprehensive and individualized approach that’s uniquely tailored to the patient, immediately addressing harmful physical symptoms while also fostering long-term coping strategies and the reduction of symptoms over time.

Taking the First Step with Plus by APN

There are so many different approaches to dealing with symptoms of anxiety, depression, PTSD, and more. But no matter the treatment, the journey toward healing starts with taking this important first step: talking with a mental health professional.

At APN, we aim to support you in wellness in mind, body, and soul. We are prepared to meet you exactly where you are to help you recover, grow, and thrive. Call 424.644.6486 or complete our confidential online contact form to get started today.

References

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