Psychological disorders are malfunctions in the mind that involve one’s thoughts, behaviors, or emotions that cause an individual significant distress and dysfunction over a period of time. Psychological disorders may interfere with a person’s ability to function in everyday life; they may be unable to meet their own personal needs, and/or be a danger to themselves or others. Generalized anxiety disorder is not considered to a dangerous disorder, however, it can cause some severe dysfunction in patients’ lives. In this paper, I will discuss generalized anxiety disorder from a neurobehavioral perspective.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition, (DSM-V), generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive worry and apprehension that last longer than six months and pervades every aspect of the person’s life, or nearly every aspect, and the individual finds it difficult to control these thoughts (DSM-V, 2013). This anxiety causes a variety of symptoms of which three or more must be present for more days than not over the six-month period; restlessness, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and/or sleep disturbances. These disturbances in a person’s life cannot be explained by either an addiction, such as a drug or alcohol addiction, or by another psychological disorder (DSM-V, 2013).
Generalized anxiety disorder is a disease that is caused by a variety of factors. Anxiety is generally considered to be a disorder that people are genetically predisposed too. Research has shown that generalized anxiety disorder has a heredibility factor, however, one’s environment will contribute a great deal to rather or not one develops generalized anxiety disorder (Brown, O’Leary, & Barlow, 2001). Although one may be predisposed to develop generalized anxiety disorder, evidence shows that stressful life events in childhood may play a contributing factor, events such as child abuse, the loss of a parent, or insecure attachments to caregivers (Brown, O’Leary, & Barlow, 2001). It is a comorbid disorder often occurring along with other disorders such as; autism, depression, sleep disorders, or substance abuse.
Evidence shows that the amygdala and areas of the forebrain are involved in generalized anxiety disorder. The basolateral amygdala complex (BLA), and centromedial amygdala complex, receive information about potentially negative emotions, activating the GABA neurotransmitters, leading to somatic manifestations of anxiety (Nuss, 2015).
Generalized anxiety disorder is not a rare disease. In fact, it’s prevalence in the US may range as high as five percent of the population. It is found to be more prevalent in low income families, white, adult, women, and within those social groups of people who are widowed, separated, or divorced (Weisberg, 2009).
Generalized anxiety disorder is more than just excessive worrying. It can impair one’s ability to think clearly, and concentrate on a task. It can sap a person’s energy, and make it hard for them to sleep. It can lead to a worsening of, or be the cause of other psychological disorders such as; depression, substance abuse, insomnia, digestive problems, headaches, and may even cause heart problems. Generalized anxiety disorder has also been linked to suicidal tendency, and some people who suffer from the disorder to manage to carry out their suicide (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).
The two main treatment options for generalized anxiety disorder are psychotherapy, or medication; usually a combination of both. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective therapy for generalized anxiety disorder, as it involves teaching the patient how to respond better to stress and negative emotions. Several different medications are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder including antidepressants, antianxiety, and benzodiazepines (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).
Antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), and serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), are usually the first choice of physicians when treating anxiety disorders. Antidepressants and antianxiety medications take up to several weeks to work, and the side effects can be drastic, to include suicidal thoughts; physicians are advised to carefully monitor patients, changing medications if severe side effects do occur. Benzodiazepines are only used on short term basis for patients who are suffering from acute anxiety attacks, and should not be used for patients with a history of substance abuse because they can be addicting (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).
Generalized anxiety is a psychological disorder that is quite prevalent in the population of the United States. People who suffer from this disorder are likely to stress and worry over the smallest thing in an uncontrollable manner, and this stress is likely to affect their personal life increasing the likely hood of them developing another psychological disorder. But, anxiety can be controlled with the assistance of a physician, through the use of psychotherapy, and medications. I believe Juliana Hatfield described anxiety, and its symptoms, best when she said, “Sometimes I feel like a human pincushion. Every painful emotion hits me with ridiculously exaggerated force. And, the anxiety feels like hands inside of me, squeezing my guts really hard.”
Nuss, P. (2015). Anxiety disorders and GABA neurotransmission: a disturbance of
modulation. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 11, 165–175.
Brown, Timothy A., O’Leary, Tracy A., & Barlow, David H.(2001). Clinical Handbook of
Psychological Disorders, Third Edition: A Step-by-Step Treatment Manual, Chapter
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Weisberg, Risa B. (2009). Overview of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Epidemiology,
Presentation, and Course. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2009;70(suppl 2):4-9. Retrieved
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Complications. Retrieved from:
Juliana Hatfield. Retrieved from: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/anxiety.html