Mortgage payments. Job security. Tuition. Health-care coverage. Anxiety seems to go hand-in-hand with life in the 21st century. But when anxiety becomes excessive, impeding daily living, the result is a diagnosable mental illness – generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). GAD affects 6.8 million American adults age 18 and older.
“Anxiety is more prevalent now because of the way of the world,” says Bart Mongiello, Ramapo Ridge Partial Program (RRPP) Director. “People are worried about finances, being unemployed, their children, and their future. These are things we always worried about, but recently these worries have doubled.”
GAD tends to develop gradually and can occur at any age. While the exact cause is unknown, chemical imbalances in areas of the brain involved with fear and anxiety, as well as genetics, can play a role.
GAD is diagnosed when an individual has experienced symptoms for at least six months. Common symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, concentrating, and relaxing; feeling constantly tired; lack of appetite; irritability; frequent urination; headaches; muscle aches; stomach aches; trembling; twitching; and excessive sweating.
“People with GAD tend to go through the day with exaggerated worry and tension and anticipating disaster. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety,” Mr. Mongiello says. “They know they worry more than they should, but have trouble controlling these constant worries.”
Sometimes, diagnosing GAD is delayed because it frequently co-exists with another mental or physical illness. Symptoms of the other illness may mask GAD’s symptoms.
“A person suffering from depression, for instance, often suffers from GAD as well,” Mr. Mongiello says.
GAD can be effectively treated with therapy and/or medication. In the RRPP, GAD is treated through a variety of therapy groups, such as stress reduction, living skills, illness management and recovery, spiritual awareness, and social skills.
“We do a significant amount of education about a variety of coping skills – how to manage anxiety, how to reduce stress, what you should control, what you need to let go of,” Mr. Mongiello says. “We teach consumers to ‘stay in the present.’ You don’t know what’s going to happen in three weeks or three months, so you need to stay in the present.”
While RRPP consumers attend the same groups, individual goals are established for each person based on his/her illness and symptoms.
“We utilize a multidisciplinary team approach, which includes a psychiatric, nurse, activity therapist, social worker, nutritionist, counselors, and a chaplain,” Mr. Mongiello says. “That’s a unique concept for a partial-hospitalization program.”