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.
DeMartini J, Patel G, Fancher TL. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Ann Intern Med. 2019 Apr 2;170(7):ITC49-ITC64.
Generalized anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/generalized-anxiety-disorder/. Updated November 13, 2020. Accessed May 8, 2020.
Locke AB, Kirst N, Shultz CG. Diagnosis and management of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015 May 1;91(9):617-24
11/6/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed... : Mars B, Heron J, Crane C, et al. Clinical and social outcomes of adolescent self harm: population based birth cohort study. BMJ. 2014;349:g5954.
Last reviewed November 2019 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 05/08/2020
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.