Generalized Anxiety Disorder

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition characterized by excessive, unfocused worrying and anxiety. This worrying is to the extent that affected people struggle with relationships or everyday tasks. People with generalized anxiety disorder describe a loss of control over their thoughts, and often worry about situations and issues which are out of their control. Treatment of GAD is with counseling and, sometimes, medication. With effective treatment and support, it is possible to overcome generalized anxiety disorder

Risks

Anxiety is a common and normal emotion. Some people have worry or anxiety which overwhelms parts of their life, and these people often have an anxiety disorder. Generalized anxiety disorder is a common condition, and around one in twenty people will suffer from this condition during their lifetime. A combination of several factors combine to cause generalized anxiety disorder. These include chemical imbalances in the brain, stressful experiences during childhood and adolescence, other medical conditions, and drug and alcohol use. It is also thought that anxiety disorders run in families, as having a close relative with a mental health condition, especially anxiety, increases the risk of developing an anxiety disorder. People are usually diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 40, although many people suffer symptoms for some time before they are eventually diagnosed.

Symptoms

The most common and troublesome symptom of GAD is persistent, invasive and uncontrollable anxiety or worry. This can be around any issue or situation, and people with GAD often worry and feel guilty about things that they can not control, or which do not affect them directly. This often causes irritability and difficulty concentrating, as well as other physical symptoms, such as trouble sleeping, headaches, constant tension, racing of the heart, and dizziness. People who are diagnosed with GAD have anxiety which is severe enough to interfere with that person's everyday life.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis is usually made by an experienced doctor, psychotherapist or psychologist following a psychological assessment. Some blood tests may be done to exclude other causes for the symptoms.

Treatment

The treatment of GAD usually involves counseling (psychotherapy) and, sometimes, medication. Often medication is only needed in the short term to help people manage symptoms while they receive counseling. Support groups and stress management techniques, such as mindfulness, may be helpful.

Prevention

A reliable source of emotional support may help people with GAD recognize the signs of worsening anxiety early.

Other Names for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • GAD