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General Anxiety Disorder in America

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General anxiety disorder affects millions of Americans every year. The American Academy of Family Physicians observes that approximately, 4% to 6% of the total American population suffers from general anxiety disorder every year (Gliatto, 2000). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, general anxiety disorder is defined as a mental disorder without panic attacks or symptoms of major depression. The disorder is common in patients with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and irritable bowel. Moreover, patients with general anxiety disorder are likely to develop other medical complications due to prolonged unstable state of mind.

            Patients suffering from general anxiety disorder may exhibit exaggerated worry or/and tension which is more severe that the normal anxiety that people experience from daily life experiences. This tension may be observed in a patient for duration of six months or more, in chronic cases. Patients with general anxiety disorder tend to worry excessively about work, family, money or health even when there no indication of trouble. Physical symptoms include headaches, fatigue, hot flashes, trembling, muscle tension, and irritability. Observations made in America show that many women suffer from general anxiety disorder than men. The actual cause of this disorder is not known, although researchers in mental disorders suggest that it may run in families. A person may start to suffer from general anxiety disorder at an early age. Symptoms of general anxiety disorder do not manifest themselves fast as compared to those of other mental disorders; hence, it could remain invisible in a person until adulthood. The disorder is worsened by stress. 

            Patients suffering from general anxiety disorder tend to seek treatment from general physicians and family physicians than from psychiatrists. Nevertheless, treatment for general anxiety disorder includes a combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. In pharmacotherapy, anxiety medicines such as the benzodiazepines, buspirone, or antidepressants are used. The benzodiazepines can be used for short-term treatment; however, if a patient manifests chronic symptoms of general anxiety disorder, use of benzodiazepines can continue for months or years. Where a patient does not respond to medications after within a reasonable period, a psychiatrist maybe consulted.

            Psychotherapy may include a combination of behavioral therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In behavioral therapy, the psychiatrist focuses on relaxing the behaviors causing anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, 2011). For example, to control tension, a psychiatrist may train a patient how to breathe in slowly and deeply. This is important to patients whose anxiety-causing behaviors are characterized by rapid breathing and shallow breaths, which can trigger rapid heartbeat and hence hypertension. A psychiatrist can also slowly expose the patients to what frightens them. For instance, if anxiety is heightened in a patient by fire, the psychiatrist may start by lighting a matchstick during therapy sessions. Gradually, the psychiatrist can introduce a burning candle in the therapy room. This way, the patient will become exposed to his/her fear and eventually learn how to cope with it.

            Cognitive behavioral therapy involves teaching the patient how to react differently to situation and bodily sensations that trigger anxiety symptoms. For this reason, the psychiatrist has to understand the underlying causes of anxiety in a patient as well as the situations and bodily sensations that trigger anxiety. In addition, a patient is taught how his/her thinking pattern contributes to anxiety. The patient learns how to control his/her thinking and how to change his/her thoughts to reduce the occurrence of anxiety symptoms.

            In conclusion, general anxiety disorder is a mental disorder, which can be treated through combination of pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy. However, patients can control occurrence of anxiety disorder by avoiding stress.

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