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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems. But individuals with GAD are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry. They are very anxious about just getting through the day and think things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps individuals with GAD from doing everyday tasks.

GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the teen years or young adulthood. Symptoms may get better or worse at different times, and often are worse during times of stress.
Individuals with GAD may visit a doctor many times before they find out they have this disorder. They ask their doctors to help them with headaches or trouble falling asleep, which can be symptoms of GAD but they don't always get the help they need right away. It may take doctors some time to be sure that a person has GAD instead of something else.

What are the signs and symptoms of GAD?

A person with GAD may:

  • Worry very much about everyday things
  • Have trouble controlling their constant worries
  • Know that they worry much more than they should
  • Not be able to relax and having a hard time concentrating
  • Be easily startled, tremble or twitch
  • Have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep and feeling tired all the time
  • Have a hard time swallowing, headaches, muscle aches, stomach aches, or unexplained pains
  • Be irritable, sweat a lot, and feel light-headed or out of breath

What causes GAD?

GAD is mostly caused by perceived threats in an individual’s environment. Those most at risk for developing GAD are more sensitive and see the world as threatening, have a history of anxiety, abuse alcohol or have had a traumatic experience. GAD sometimes runs in families.

How is GAD treated?

GAD is generally treated with therapy, medication or both. Therapy teaches a person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that help him or her feel less anxious and worried. Medications may be prescribed to help treat the anxiety and depression which often accompanies GAD.

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