Generalized Anxiety Disorder
by Julie Riley, MS, RD
Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder marked by chronic, exaggerated worrying and anxiety about everyday life. The worry is so severe that it interferes with a person's ability to live their life.
GAD may be caused by:
GAD is nearly twice as common in women than in men. Other factors that may increase your chances of GAD:
Symptoms of GAD usually develop slowly. People with GAD often have both psychological and physical symptoms of anxiety.
Psychological symptoms include:
Physical symptoms may include:
People with GAD often have other anxiety disorders, depression, and/or substance use disorders.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical and psychiatric exam will be done. Conditions with similar symptoms will be evaluated. Blood and urine tests may be done.
You will be asked about any medications that you are taking, including over the counter products, herbs, and supplements. Some medications can cause side effects similar to the symptoms of GAD. You will also be asked about any other substances that you may be using such as nicotine, caffeine, illegal drugs, prescription medications, and alcohol.
To make a diagnosis of GAD, symptoms must:
You may be referred to a psychotherapist for further evaluation.
Counseling with or without medicine can help to manage GAD symptoms. It can ease impact on day-to-day life.
There are many types of treatment for GAD. The choice will be based on specific needs by may include one or more of the following:
Medicine may be recommended if symptoms are debilitating. It may help with work in counseling. The length of time on medicine will depend on how severe symptoms are. Medicine choices may include:
The risks and benefits of medicine will be weighed when making treatment plan. Some types may cause dependence.
Some habits may help to ease tension. They may be used as part of overall treatment.
Strong social support may also help or be an important part of therapy.
There are no current guidelines to prevent GAD because the cause is unknown.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Mental Health America
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Updated July 2018. Accessed May 8, 2020.
Anxiety Treatment. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/treatments. Accessed May 8, 2020.
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Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 05/08/2020