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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Also called: General Anxiety Disorder, GAD, Persistent Anxiety

- Summary
- About GAD
- Signs and symptoms
- Diagnosis methods
- Treatment and prevention
- Questions for your doctor

Reviewed By:
Steven A. King, M.D.
Tahir Tellioglu, M.D., APA, AAAP


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition in which people worry excessively, even when there are no signs of extraordinary trouble in their lives. Patients may experience anxiety surrounding issues of health, family, money, work and more. It is not unusual for patients with GAD to report that they cannot remember the last time they felt relaxed.

Patients with GAD may experience symptoms such as insomnia, irritability, restlessness, muscle tension and difficulty concentrating. For the diagnosis of GAD to be made, this excessive and unfounded worry must also interfere with their ability to engage in their usual activities. The condition is also often associated with other mental disorders, such as depression or substance abuse problems.

Depression comes in many forms, from mild sadness to a mood disorders such as major depression. Drug abuse interferes with nerve communication in the brain and can cause addiction and dependence.

About 6.8 million Americans experience GAD each year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). This makes it among the most common anxiety disorders. Although GAD can begin during childhood or adolescence, the median age of onset is 31 years. The condition affects women twice as often as men.

GAD can be difficult to diagnose because it is not characterized by dramatic symptoms, such as panic attacks (sudden, brief episodes of fear and anxiety), that are associated with other anxiety disorders. However, once it is diagnosed by a physician, it is usually successfully treated with a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

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Review Date: 08-07-2007

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