Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is much more than the normal anxiety people experience day to day. Without provoking, it is chronic and exaggerated worry and tension. This disorder involves anticipating disaster, often worrying excessively about health, money, family or work. Sometimes, though, just the thought of getting through the day brings on anxiety.

People with GAD can't shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that much of their anxiety is unwarranted. People with GAD also seem unable to relax and often have trouble falling or staying asleep. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating, hot flashes and feeling lightheaded or out of breath.

Many individuals with GAD startle more easily than other people. They tend to feel tired, have trouble concentrating and may suffer from depression. GAD may involve nausea, frequent trips to the bathroom or feeling like there is a lump in the throat.

When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and hold down a job. Although they don't avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder, people with GAD can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities if their anxiety is severe.

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GAD affects about 6.8 million American adults, including twice as many women as men. The disorder develops gradually and can begin at any point in the life cycle but usually develops between childhood and middle age. There is evidence that genes play a modest role in GAD.

Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD, which rarely occurs alone. GAD is commonly treated with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy, but co-occurring conditions must also be treated using the appropriate therapies.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Last reviewed 08/11/2009

Sources:

  • Archives of General Psychiatry
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - Fourth Edition - TR
  • National Institute of Mental Health - Anxiety Disorders
  • National Institute of Mental Health (Genetics Workgroup) - Gentics and Mental Disorders 
  • British Journal of Psychiatry Supplement
  • Psychiatric disorders in America: the Epidemiologic Catchment Area Study