What Are The Warning Signs Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a serious mental illness. It is characterized by “chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience.” An adolescent that struggles with GAD will likely experience a large percentage of his or her waking hours excessively worrying about something, even when there is no specific threat present. Reports have noted that GAD affects nearly eight percent of teenagers in America. The Child Mind Institute asserts that generalized anxiety disorder is more common in girls than in boys.
Risk factors that may increase a teenager’s propensity for developing generalized anxiety disorder could include both environmental and genetic factors, such as the following, provided by Healthline:
- Family history of anxiety disorders
- Recent or prolonged exposure to stressful situations, including personal or family illnesses
- Excessive use of caffeine or tobacco can exacerbate existing anxiety
- Childhood abuse or bullying
- Certain health conditions such as thyroid problems or heart arrhythmias
The University of Rochester Medical Center asserts that an imbalance of two chemicals in the brain (norepinephrine and serotonin) most likely plays a part in the development of GAD. Experts suggest that “those living with GAD may experience certain activation in areas of the brain associated with mental activity and introspective thinking when they encounter situations that could cause worry.” According to Winchester Hospital, it is not uncommon for other anxiety disorders to co-occur in a young person with generalized anxiety disorder.
Warning Signs and Symptoms
Every teen is different and has the propensity to exhibit a variety of symptoms when struggling with GAD. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (AADA), in order to be clinically diagnosed with GAD a young person must experience severe difficulty controlling his or her worry on more days than not for at least six months and present with at least three or more of following signs and symptoms:
- Having a sense of impending danger, panic, and/ or doom
- Increased heart rate
- Difficulty sleeping
- Hyperventilation (breathing rapidly)
- Excessive sweating
- Feeling weak and/ or tired
- Impaired concentration and/ or feeling as though the mind goes blank
- Increased muscle aches and/ or soreness
- Gastrointestinal (GI) problems (e.g., nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.)
The above criteria differentiate GAD from normal bouts of anxiety and/ or worry that may manifest from a specific set of stressors or for a more limited period. Should a teenager present with any combination of the above symptoms it may be indicative of GAD and pursuing professional guidance may be advantageous.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, in the long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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