Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) consists of excessive worry around a variety of situations and functions. Most people are worried about something, but the worry of GAD is extreme and unwarranted by the specific situation. Normal worries may escalate to something beyond the individual’s control. These excessive worries must last most days for the 6 months and be around a variety of activities. There also has to be three or more physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, restlessness, and irritability, along with the anxiety. These symptoms cause significant distress and cannot be explained by any substance or other mental illness. GAD affects about 3.1% of Americans. Treatments for GAD involve medication and psychotherapy, usually in tandem. Medications can target the feelings of anxiety as well as the physical symptoms. Psychotherapy works on the behaviors and thinking surrounding the anxiety, developing new habits around the anxiety. This can help in coping with the anxiety and reduce its effect.
The nature of GAD is that worry is about anything and everything, and most likely the sufferer knows that it is. But they have no control over what they have anxiety around or how great it is. And sometimes this can prevent the individual from performing tasks, sleeping, and drain all energy. Part of college is to be efficient with time and energy, and anxiety makes it very hard to do that. The college environment in general is stressful, which exacerbates the problem. The majority of those with GAD have other mental illnesses as well, compounding the difficulty. They are more likely to have substance abuse problems. Someone with GAD in college can contact the disabilities office to set up accommodations that may aide in reducing anxiety and fostering success. This may include more time on exams, changes in housing, and more flexibility in course work. Medications and therapy are effective as well as likely essential. When untreated, GAD can lead to many other health problems, so it is important to address it. However, it is completely treatable and success in college is very possible.