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How much Worry
is Normal?

Q. Just how much worry is normal? I even worry that I am not worrying enough!

I have two children, both under 5 and a husband in what I consider a dangerous job and my parents are getting up in years and.... well, you get the idea.

How can I control my worrying without not paying enough attention to a potential problem? A doctor once told me I had GAD (General Anxiety Disorder). Is this real? Thanks.

A. General Anxiety Disorder(GAD) is a real condition which affects about 4% of the population. It occurs slightly more in women than men.

In brief, it refers to chronic anxiety of 6 months' duration or more, a lot of time spent worrying and having a large number of worries, and it feels uncontrollable. GAD gets in the way of functioning well and can affect the quality of a person's relationships.

Stressors, such as you mention with having young children, older parents, and your husband in a high risk job can certainly make your symptoms worse. As with many possible mental health conditions, it is wise to have a medical doctor screen you for possible physical causes of these symptoms.

The usual recommendations for GAD include regular physical exercise, learning and using relaxation techniques, and helpful nutritional habits (ie cut down or cut out caffeine).

In addition, it is usually necessary to change one's self-talk (the "worry" talk in one's head) and to address self-esteem issues that may be present.

Antidepressant medications that also address anxiety may be recommended. It is most helpful if this is done on a limited basis (6 months-a year) while the person is learning to make the changes mentioned above. The need can be reevaluated after that time.

A clinical social worker or other licensed mental health care provider can help the thinking and behavior changes on a short or intermediate term basis.

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Anne Cook Finnegan

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