Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a condition characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worrying and anxiety that interferes with daily activities. It can occur in children and adults and may coexist with other anxiety or mood disorders.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder symptoms may include:
Physical signs and symptoms may include fatigue, trouble sleeping, muscle tension, trembling, sweating, and gastrointestinal issues.
Children and teenagers with GAD may exhibit similar symptoms and excessive worries about school performance, safety, punctuality, and catastrophic events. They may also show perfectionism, lack of confidence, and avoidance of social situations.
If you feel excessive worrying is interfering with your life or if you experience other mental health concerns along with anxiety, consider seeking professional help. If you have suicidal thoughts or behaviors, seek emergency treatment immediately.
The exact cause of GAD is likely a combination of biological and environmental factors, including brain chemistry, genetics, perception of threats, and development/personality.
Women are diagnosed with GAD more frequently than men. Risk factors include temperament, genetics, significant life changes, childhood trauma, recent negative experiences, and other mental health disorders or chronic medical illnesses.
GAD can impair daily functioning, lead to depression, and worsen physical health conditions like digestive issues, headaches, chronic pain, and sleep problems. It often coexists with other mental health disorders like phobias, panic disorder, PTSD, OCD, and substance abuse.
While there’s no guaranteed prevention, early help-seeking, journaling, time management, avoiding unhealthy substance use, and getting professional support can reduce the impact of anxiety symptoms.
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To diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, your doctor or mental health professional may conduct a physical exam to rule out underlying medical conditions. They may also order blood or urine tests if a medical condition is suspected. Detailed questions about your symptoms and medical history will be asked, and psychological questionnaires may be used. The diagnosis may follow the criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).
Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder involves psychotherapy and medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most effective form of psychotherapy for GAD. Medications like antidepressants, such as SSRIs and SNRIs, are commonly prescribed. Buspirone may be used on an ongoing basis, and benzodiazepines may be used in limited circumstances for short-term relief. A combination of therapies may be beneficial and finding the right treatment may require some trial and error.
In addition to psychotherapy and medications, lifestyle changes can also help manage anxiety:
Some herbal remedies have been studied for anxiety treatment, but results are mixed. Herbal supplements like kava and valerian may have risks, and other supplements like passionflower or theanine may have calming effects but are often combined with other products, making their efficacy unclear. Consult with your doctor before taking any herbal remedies or supplements to ensure safety and avoid interactions with other medications.
To cope with generalized anxiety disorder:
Before your appointment with a doctor or mental health professional:
During the appointment, be ready to answer questions about your symptoms, triggers, and any physical or mental health conditions you may have.