Generalized Anxiety: What We Did not Know About This Disease

Anxiety is currently the primary mental health problem.

A third of the population would be affected. However, a large number of these people are not treated. This is explained by the fact that anxiety is a subjective phenomenon, complex, and challenging to define.

Therefore, it is necessary to distinguish between normal anxiety, pathological anxiety, or knowing the nuance between anxiety, fear, phobias, and stress.

Some scientists believe that anxiety is a conditioned reflex.

According to psychoanalytic theory, anxiety manifests as an unconscious conflict, a disease, or a fear of a disturbing psychological event during childhood.

In some people, the way they have learned to cope with life’s events can cause a predisposition to anxiety.

It is still essential to remember that mild anxiety is helpful because it helps to adapt and encourages the individual to find solutions, which is a source of action and change.

Generalized anxiety

When anxiety becomes an extreme pathology, it alters or paralyzes the person’s functioning and, in most areas of existence.

A person suffering from severe anxiety suffers considerable difficulties both at work and in family, sexual or social life.

Fear and phobias

Fear, in turn, is an emotion similar to anxiety, but it is usually seen in response to a real or fictitious threat.

Therefore, it is customary to be afraid in the forest when facing a bear. However, we are anxious if one is worried a few months in advance because of a routine medical examination.

If fear becomes an extreme situation in which something is imagined as dangerous, and you tend to avoid that situation, it is called a phobia.

In phobia, the danger is not accurate. There are many phobias: phobia of animals, confined places, darkness, heights, etc.

Stress and Generalized Anxiety

Stress is a physiological and psychological response to an often unexpected situation.

For example, critical financial difficulties, divorce, and dismissal; are undoubtedly stress factors that can generate a certain level of anxiety.

Anxiety is an emotion considered normal when it comes to a response to stress.

It becomes pathological when prolonged exposure to stress creates a diffuse fear related to the anticipation of an adverse event or an unknown imminent danger that could happen, which generates suffering and functional disability.


Anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following symptoms:

  • Agitation,
  • Fatigability,
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory loss,
  • Irritability,
  • Muscle tension,
  • Sleep disorders,
  • The resulting anxiety, worry, and physical symptoms cause discomfort or significant deterioration in social, occupational, or other areas.


Anxiety does not have a unique cause. Instead, it is caused by the combination and quantity of physical (biological), psychological and environmental factors (stress).

Biological factors are a form of hereditary predisposition. At the same time, psychological factors are inefficient or ineffective defense mechanisms.

Moreover finally, some stress agent that is in the environment.

Three types of diseases can generate pathological anxiety:

Physical illness, such as hyperthyroidism. In this case, anxiety is called “secondary” and disappears after healing.

Mental illness (other than anxiety disorders): depression, psychosis, and bipolar disorder is often characterized by marked anxiety.

In these cases, controlled mental disorder can significantly reduce it.

The whole range of anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety, panic attacks, phobias, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In the presence of these disorders, anxiety is a phenomenon called “main,” that is, predominant.

Scientists are studying the importance of brain inheritance and biochemistry in the genesis and production of anxiety disorders.

It seems increasingly clear that biochemical imbalances would be responsible for the occurrence of these diseases.

Who is affected?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) affects between 5 and 10% of the population. Women are twice as likely to be affected as men.

From 50 to 90% of people with a generalized anxiety disorder also suffer from another mental illness. Panic disorder, depression, and drug or alcohol abuse are frequently associated with GAD.

Prevention and care

-A healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce anxiety to return to a tolerable level. Among the elements of a healthy lifestyle we have:

-A good balance between work, rest, and recreation;

-A low intake of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine;

-A good diet;

-And, above all, exercise regularly.

When anxiety is related to individual factors of a biological and psychological nature, prevention is much more problematic.

A healthy lifestyle can only promote the recovery of the person, but in the presence of pathological anxiety, one should resort to medical treatment that suits each case in particular.



Several studies have demonstrated the efficacy of cognitive behavior therapy in treating anxiety disorders.

The therapy offers the person to observe and analyze the behaviors and thoughts of anxiety, learn new behaviors and replace unwanted thoughts and emotions with more appropriate ones.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is effective both individually and in groups.

Studies confirm that psychotherapeutic approaches are more effective in the long term than pharmacotherapy (medications) against anxiety disorders.


Antidepressants are effective against depressive symptoms and treat anxiety with rumination when the person has a limited response to psychotherapy.

Anxiolytics such as benzodiazepines mainly relieve somatic symptoms. Due to the problems of dependence and withdrawal syndrome, they are recommended to be used only in the short term.

Antipsychotic drugs can be prescribed when the person does not respond to other pharmacological treatments.

Complementary approaches

Relaxation techniques

Breathing exercises act quickly on anxiety and decrease the level of stress in general after regular practice of a few weeks.

These are the basic relaxation techniques. The key is a usual practice: the ideal is twice a day. After some time, anxiety decreases, and the energy level increases.

Relaxation techniques are many and have been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety in general.

Meditation causes the person to focus their mind on a word, a sound, a symbol, an image, or breathing.

The goal is to produce a deep state of relaxation and tranquility while stimulating the mind and spirit. Several types of meditation help reduce stress.

Self-help and support groups.

To break the isolation of people, these groups allow them to exchange, share experiences and receive information and support.