Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
is much more than the
normal anxiety people experience day to day. It's chronic and
exaggerated worry and tension, even though nothing seems to provoke
it. Having this disorder means always anticipating disaster, often
worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work.
Sometimes, though, the source of the worry is hard to pinpoint.
Simply the thought of getting through the day provokes anxiety.
People with GAD can't seem to shake their concerns, even though
they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the
situation warrants. They may have the following symptoms:
inability to relax
difficulty falling or staying asleep
trembling, twitching, muscle tension
lightheadedness or shortness of breath
lump in the throat
being easily startled
Some individuals with GAD suffer from
Usually the impairment associated with GAD is mild. People with
the disorder don't feel too restricted in social settings or on the
job. Unlike many other anxiety disorders, people with GAD don't
characteristically avoid certain situations as a result of their
disorder. However, if severe, GAD can be very debilitating, making
it difficult to carry out even the most ordinary daily
GAD comes on gradually and most often hits people in childhood
or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It's more common
in women than in men and often occurs in relatives of affected
persons. It's diagnosed when someone spends at least six months
worried excessively about a number of everyday problems. In
general, the symptoms of GAD seem to diminish with age.
How common is GAD?
About 3 to 4% of the U.S. population has GAD during the course
of a year. GAD most often strikes people in childhood or
adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It affects women more
often than men.
What causes GAD?
Some research suggests that GAD may run in families, and it may
also grow worse during stress. GAD usually begins at an earlier age
and symptoms may manifest themselves more slowly than in most other
What treatments are available for GAD?
Successful treatment for GAD may include a medication called
. Research into the effectiveness of other
medications, such as
, is ongoing. Also useful are
to control muscle tension.
What other physical and emotional illnesses can accompany
Research shows that GAD often coexists with
, or other anxiety disorders.
Other conditions associated with
, such as
irritable bowel syndrome
, often accompany GAD. Patients with
physical symptoms such as
should also tell their doctors about their
feelings of worry and tension. This will help the patient's health
care provider to recognize that the person is suffering from
Adapted from the National
Institue of Mental Health, September 1999
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a