Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst; they worry excessively about money, health, family, or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia and an inability to concentrate. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, or hot flashes.
Approximately 6.8 million American adults develop GAD during the course of a given year. It most often strikes people in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It affects women more often than men. Some research suggests that GAD may run in families, and it may also worsen during stressful times.
Research shows that GAD often coexists with depression, substance abuse, or other anxiety disorders. Other conditions associated with stress, such as irritable bowel syndrome, often accompany GAD. Tell your doctor if you have physical symptoms, such as insomnia or headaches, or emotional symptoms, such as constant feelings of worry and tension. This information will help your doctor determine if you are suffering from GAD.
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Statistics and facts about anxiety disorders. Anxiety Disorders Association of America website. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/. Accessed October 29, 2008.
Stern T, Rosenbaum J, et al. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby Elsevier; 2008.
Last reviewed November 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 11/26/2012