Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Learn the Ins and Outs of GAD

What Is It?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder is which a person is continually tense, apprehensive, and in a state of autonomic nervous system arousal. GAD is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.
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GAD affects about 6.8% American adults or 3.1% of the US population in any given year. Women are twice likely to be affected than men.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms may vary. They can include:

  • Persistent worrying or obsession about small or large concerns that's out of proportion to the impact of the event
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, restlessness, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind "goes blank"
  • Worrying about excessively worrying
  • Distress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decision
  • Carrying every option in a situation all the way out to its possible negative conclusion
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisiveness
Physical symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Being easily startled
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Sweating
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Headaches
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Signs and Symptoms in Children and Teens

A child or teen with Generalized Anxiety Disorder may also:

  • Feel overly anxious to fit in
  • Be a perfectionist
  • Redo tasks because they aren't perfect the first time
  • Spend excessive time doing homework
  • Lack confidence
  • Strive for approval
  • Require a lot of reassurance about performance

When to See a Doctor

Some anxiety is normal, but see your doctor if:

  • You feel like you're worrying too much, and it's interfering with your work, relationships or other parts of your life
  • You feel depressed, have trouble with drinking or drugs, or you have other mental health concerns along with anxiety
  • You have suicidal thoughts or behaviors — seek emergency treatment immediately

Risk Factors

These risk factors may increase the development of GAD:

  • Personality- A person whose temperament is timid or negative or who avoids anything dangerous may be more prone to generalized anxiety disorder than others are.
  • Genetics- GAD may run in families.
  • Gender-Women are diagnosed with GAD a lot more often than men are.

Treatments and Drugs

The two main treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder are Psychotherapy and Medications.


Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. It can be an effective treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.


  • Antidepressants
  • Buspirone
  • Benzodiazepines
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Coping and Treatment

To cope with your anxiety disorder here's what you can do:

  • Stick to your treatment plan. Take medications as directed.
  • Join an anxiety support group. Here you can find compassion, understanding, and shared experiences.
  • Take action. Work with your mental health provider to figure out what is making you anxious.
  • Socialize. Don't let worries isolate you from loved ones or enjoyable activities.
  • Let it go. Don't dwell on the past. Change what you can and let the rest take course.

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There's no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop generalized anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you experience anxiety:

  • Get help early. Anxiety, like many other mental health conditions, can be harder to treat if you wait.
  • Keep a journal. Keeping track of your personal life can help you and your mental health provider identify what's causing you stress and what seems to help you feel better.
  • Prioritize issues in your life. You can reduce anxiety by carefully managing your time and energy.
  • Avoid unhealthy substance use. Alcohol and drug use and even caffeine or nicotine use can cause or worsen anxiety. If you're addicted to any of these substances, quitting can make you anxious. If you can't quit on your own, see your doctor or find a treatment program or support group to help you.