Dr. David B. Adams – Psychological Blog

Psychology of Illness, Pain, Anxiety and Depression



Physical symptoms in patients with Generalized Anxiety iDisorder differ from individuals who have posttraumatic stress disorder or are over-concerned about normal bodily function (somatic symptom disorders).

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is more than the normal anxiety people experience from day to day. It is chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even with no provocation. Patients with GAD always anticipate disaster and often worry excessively about health, money, family, or work.

Sometimes, however, they feel anxiety without finding a problem to worry about. The thought of getting through each day provokes what is known as free-floating anxiety.

Such person are unable to relax, even when they realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They have trouble falling or staying asleep, and their anxiety is accompanied by physical symptoms: trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, palpitations and feeling lightheaded or out of breath. They may have GI upset and urinate frequently. They startle easily, have difficulty concentrating and are easily fatigued.

It is more common in women than in men and often occurs in relatives. While it can arise in adulthood, it often emerges early in childhood.

You have to be certain that the symptoms are not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drug abuse, medication, caffeine) or a general medical condition such as hyperthyroidism.

It is a surprisingly easy disorder to treat. There are medications, cognitive-behavioral psychotherapies, relaxation procedures and even clinical biofeedback that are impressively productive. These individuals require patience, since simple reassurance does not calm their symptoms.
This is not something caused by an injury, but an injury can briefly make the disorder worse since it provides an actual point of focus. These patients cannot “hear” explanations, but they (and their family) may respond well to written descriptions and summaries of their doctor visits. Nurse case managers are a valuable resource for such a patient.”

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