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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)




What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about a variety of events. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension, restlessness, heart palpitations, and stomach upset. Children and adolescents with GAD may worry excessively about their performance and competence at school or in sporting events, about personal safety and the safety of family members, or about natural disasters and future events.


GAD is relatively common disorder among children and adolescents. It begins gradually, often in childhood or adolescence, with symptoms that may worsen during times of stress. Worries may switch from one concern to another, and may change with time and age. GAD may result in significant academic, social, and familial impairment. If left untreated, the disorder may be chronic and predicative of adulthood anxiety and depression. However, early identification and effective management can help reduce the severity of symptoms. 


What causes GAD?

As with many other mental health conditions, the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown but may be linked to:

  • Genetic factors: GAD may run in families. Just as a child can inherit parent’s brown hair, green eyes, and nearsightedness, a child can also inherit that parent’s tendency toward excessive anxiety. 

  • Biological factors: Neurotransmitters, that send messages back and forth to control the way a person feels. Serotonin and dopamine are two important neurotransmitters that, when disrupted, can cause feelings of anxiety and depression.

  • Temperament factors: A child whose temperament is timid or shy or who avoids anything dangerous may be more prone to generalized anxiety disorder than others are.

  • Environmental factors: A traumatic experience (such as a divorce, illness, or death in the family, or major events outside of the family) may also trigger the onset of an anxiety disorder. 

  • In addition, anxiety may be learned from family members and others who are noticeably stressed or anxious around a child. I.e. children whom’s parents display perfectionist tendencies may become a perfectionist, too.



References


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