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. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability or hot flashes.
Fortunately, through research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), effective treatments have been developed to help people with GAD.
Some research suggests that GAD may run in families, and that it may grow worse during stress. GAD usually begins at an earlier age and symptoms may manifest themselves more slowly than in most other anxiety disorders.
Treatments for GAD include medications and behavioral or cognitive-behavioral therapy.
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. Patients with physical symptoms, such as insomnia or headaches, 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 GAD.
The content of this fact sheet was adapted from material published by the National Institute of Mental Health