Conditions InDepth: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

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 and an inability to concentrate. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, or hot flashes.

Approximately four million American adults develop GAD during the course of a given year. It most often strikes people in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It affects women more often than men. Some research suggests that GAD may run in families, and it may also worsen during stressful times.

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. Tell your healthcare provider if you have physical symptoms, such as insomnia or headaches, or emotional symptoms, such as constant feelings of worry and tension. This information will help your healthcare provider determine if you are suffering from GAD.

What are the risk factors for generalized anxiety disorder?
What are the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?
How is generalized anxiety disorder diagnosed?
What are the treatments for generalized anxiety disorder?
Are there screening tests for generalized anxiety disorder?
How can I reduce my risk of generalized anxiety disorder?
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
What is it like to live with generalized anxiety disorder?
Where can I get more information about generalized anxiety disorder?


National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: .

Muller JE, Koen L, Stein Dj. Anxiety and medical disorders. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2005;7:245-251

Last reviewed February 2007 by David Juan, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Your Health and Happiness