Anxiety Symptoms, Signs, Causes & Effects

The symptoms of anxiety disorder can take away your ability to enjoy life, and cause you to experience pain on many levels, but when you choose to come to Blue Ridge Mountain Recovery Center, you can begin to build a more promising future.

What is Anxiety

Learn More About Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) involves the experience of an excessive amount of anxiety and fear over every day occurrences. While everyone has moments where they worry, the worry associate with GAD is much more excessive than what is considered normal. These worries are more pronounced, pervasive, and distressing than typical day to day worries. People with GAD worry or feel distressed even when there is nothing real to fear.

Individuals suffering with generalized anxiety disorder generally report that they can’t identify the cause of their anxiety and that their anxiety has just developed out of nowhere. Those with GAD have a hard time controlling their anxiety which leads to feelings of helplessness, due to the lack of control. Anxiety symptoms associated with GAD can interfere with all aspects of life, often leaving the individual feeling as if they worry constantly.


Statistics on Anxiety Disorder

In the United States it’s estimated that 0.9% of adolescents and 2.9% of adults suffer from GAD each year.  The average age of onset for GAD is 30 years.  It peaks in adulthood and middle age before it starts to decline. Females are twice as likely as males to experience GAD. However, it could be that men are just not as likely to report symptoms of anxiety. GAD is more prevalent in individuals of European descent then those of non-European descent, in particular Asian, African, Native American, and Pacific Islanders.


Causes of Anxiety Disorder

While the exact cause of GAD is unknown a number of different factors have been hypothesized as potential causes. It is likely that the cause of GAD is the result of a combination of many different factors. Some causes may include:

GeneticGenetic factors seem to play a big part in the development of GAD. Numerous studies have shown that individuals who have family members, especially first degree relatives, have a greater chance of developing this disorder.

Brain StructureCertain areas of the brain, especially those that help regulate fear, memory, and stress, can play a role in the development of GAD. If these parts of the brain are not functioning properly it can cause an individual to be continuously anxious.

Neurotransmitters: Abnormal levels of specific neurotransmitters (chemicals that are responsible for communication in the brain), could be another potential cause. Research has shown that when certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine are at abnormal levels, the brain may not be effectively communicating with other areas of the brain. This inability to communicate correctly can lead the fear centers of the brain to receive incorrect messages, resulting in higher levels of anxiety and stress.

EnvironmentalIndividuals who have experienced severe stressors in their life such as exposure to dangerous situations or loss of a loved one are more likely to develop generalized anxiety.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders and the Complexity of Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is often accompanied by other mental health disorders. The most common co-occurring disorders include:

  • Other anxiety disorders (panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, phobias)
  • Substance use and abuse disorders
  • Eating disorders (Anorexia, Bulimia)
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder

There are a number of signs and symptoms that are commonly associate with GAD. However, not everyone experiences the exact same symptoms. Some symptoms may include:

Mood symptoms:

  • Feeling helpless or hopeless that things will improve
  • Irritability and agitation

Physical symptoms:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Trembling
  • Muscle tension
  • Body aches and pains
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Rapid pulse, elevated hearth rate, difficulty breathing at times
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The need to go to the bathroom frequently

Psychological symptoms:

  • Unrealistic view of problems
  • Excessive and unrealistic worry occurring almost all day on more days than not
  • Excessive or unwarranted anxiety
  • Awareness that the worrying is excessive
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Mind going blank
  • Trouble with concentration, attention, and memory


Effects of General Anxiety Disorder

While the symptoms of GAD may come and go, this disorder usually requires treatment in order to control symptoms. Some of the common effects may include.

  • Problems functioning or effectively working at your job
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Marital problems
  • Difficulty carrying out daily activities
  • Inability to do things quickly or accurately
  • Inability to interact normally with others
  • Feeling unable to do anything to make things better
  • Incapacitation during anxiety episodes
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Loss of motivation
  • Social isolation
  • Withdrawal from activities once enjoyed
  • Feelings of helplessness
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