Free-Floating Anxiety: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

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Free-Floating Anxiety: Introduction

Anxiety is a common experience. It occurs when a person becomes uneasy in certain situations, is anxious, or experiences high levels of tension. While occasional anxiety is normal, free-floating anxiety or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) occurs when the anxiety cannot be linked to any known specific object, situation, or event. It can seem causeless.

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Free-Floating Anxiety: Causes

Free-floating anxiety is a condition that is estimated to affect about 6.8 million American adults. As with many health conditions, what causes GAD isn’t well understood. It’s likely that the condition has several causes that may include genetics, brain chemistry, your environment, and stress. Generalized anxiety disorder has similar symptoms as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety, but they’re all different conditions.

Free-Floating Anxiety: Signs and Symptoms

Most types of anxiety have similar symptoms. GAD is often accompanied by other forms of anxiety disorder, including panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias). Persons with the condition are more likely to suffer from depression.

The symptoms of GAD depend on the individual and the severity of the case. Symptoms may include sweating, heart palpitations, muscle contraction, chills, uneasiness, and hot flashes. More serious physical symptoms include breathing difficulty, nausea, dizziness, and even heart complications.

In addition to physical symptoms, free-floating anxiety may affect one’s ability to think, distort one’s self-image and cause other psychological problems, including, panic, over worrying, moodiness, irritability, insomnia, depression, and concentration difficulties.

Like other diseases, GAD can worsen if left untreated. Health experts should address minor symptoms immediately to prevent the anxiety from escalating and becoming debilitating.

Free-Floating Anxiety: Treatment Options

If you believe that you may have GAD, you can take start by recording the events that seem to cause it.  For example, what happens before, during, and after you experience anxiety.  Are there common situations or events that seem to trigger it?

Noting your anxiety can help in several ways. First, understanding your symptoms will help a medical professional distinguish between the occasional anxiety that we all suffer and the more serious GAD. Second, noting the reasons for the anxiety and identifying underlying causes are often the first steps of talk therapy. Third, many people find that writing down and assessing their moods helps them manage and assess their emotions, and eliminate distorting thoughts. Making time to note your emotions is a key part of cognitive behavioral therapy.

If you are diagnosed with free-floating anxiety, treatment will probably involve a combination of pharmaceuticals and therapy. The medications most often used to treat GAD in the short-term are from a class of drugs called benzodiazepines. These medications are sometimes referred to as “tranquilizers,” because they leave you feeling calm and relaxed. Common benzodiazepines include Xanax, Librium, Valium and Ativan. Antidepressants, especially Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are also used to treat free-floating anxiety.

These medications are usually combined with some form of therapy. The most common is cognitive-behavioral therapy, in which you learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to anxious feelings. This type of therapy helps limit distorted thinking and overwhelming emotions by looking at worries more realistically.

In addition, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga and biofeedback, may be used to calm mind and body. For some people, these natural remedies are sufficient to learn to calm everyday worries. Others use them to complement conventional medicine and medications. 

Free-Floating Anxiety: Prevention

Like other mental illnesses, GAD can cause embarrassment or shame to those suffering from it. It is important to try to let go of such emotions and any internalized stigma. Talk to friends and family so that they have a good idea of what you are going through and can give you ample support. If you feel that your condition is impacting your quality of life or is more than you can handle, go to a medical professional as soon as possible. GAD may worsen with time, so early intervention is key.

Learning how to managing free-floating anxiety is often a multi-faceted and long process, and one that is different for every person. However, the core tenets are usually avoiding triggers, learning the tools to help you understand your emotions and assess distorting thoughts, and engaging in those positive behaviors that ground body and mind. Medications are used to change your brain chemistry and alter your emotional, psychological and physical response to situations.

Yoga may help you manage your anxiety by reducing tension, stress, and improving breathing and physical wellbeing. Meditation can help you calm your mind, achieve mental clarity, and can help you understand conflicting emotions.

To ease stress, try to distinguish between the task at hand and your emotional response to it. Try not to set yourself up to fail with unrealistic expectations. Meditation is an excellent tool to learn how to manage stress although unlike say, a drug, its results are not instantaneous and take time and practice.

Try to avoid things that trigger your anxiety, such as coffee and caffeinated drinks. Smoking can also trigger anxiety. 

Free-Floating Anxiety: Conclusion

Free-floating anxiety or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), is a type of mental illness that is estimated to affect 6.8 million American adults. Its causes are not widely understood, but it is thought to be a combination of hereditary, stress, brain chemistry and environmental factors.

Free-floating anxiety can sometimes be prevented through behavior and thought modification, if caught early.  GAD is often linked to depression and should be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible. Family and community support are important. A growing number of people have found that alternative remedies, such as yoga and meditation, are complementary to conventional medicine, and help manage, control or even cure this illness.

REFERENCES

1)    http://www.columbia.edu/itc/hs/medical/cp4/client_edit/topic4/sg3b-1.pdf.

2)  ^ Gould, RA; Otto, M; Pollack, M; Yap, L (1997). “Cognitive behavioral and pharmacological treatment of generalized anxiety disorder: A preliminary meta-analysis”. Behavior Therapy 28 (2): 285–305. doi:10.1016/S0005-7894(97)80048-2. Retrieved 2008-11-08.

3)    ^ Wolitzky-Taylor, K.B.; Castriotta, N.; Lenze, E.J.; Stanley, M.A.; Craske, M.G. (Feb 2010). “Anxiety disorders in older adults: a comprehensive review”. Depress Anxiety 27 (2): 190–211. doi:10.1002/da.20653. PMID 20099273

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