GAD is characterized by persistent, excessive worry about various aspects of one’s life. This could include:
GAD affects both children and adults. Approximately 3% of the adult population is diagnosed with this condition. Up to 4.5% of children are also diagnosed with this anxiety disorder.
When experiencing symptoms of GAD, an individual may feel restless, tense, and irritable. They may have difficulty concentrating, making decisions and falling asleep. They may engage in excessive planning that they never execute and may overthink the outcomes of their decision. Children often experience gastrointestinal distress. Both children and adults have prolonged periods of worry that do not resolve. In addition, the intensity of the worry is disproportionate to the event. They may struggle with any degree of uncertainty and may experience a constant sense of dread.
Children with GAD have similar worries as their peers although they cannot stop worrying and have difficulty shifting their attention to something else. They may seek reassurance from adults about the outcome of events. This has only short-term benefits and usually the reassurance is needed once again. The content of children’s worries may be distinct from adults and can involve something happening to a parent, natural disasters and making errors in school or with peers.
Treatment for GAD is multimodal. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the gold standard treatment which focuses on reducing overpreparation, planning and avoidance commonly seen in GAD. It often involves strategies for reducing anxiety through gradual behavioral practice. Additionally, it will include identifying patterns of negative and maladaptive thinking, developing appropriate problem- solving skills and learning to cope with the experience of anxiety.
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