Generalized anxiety disorder (patient information)

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Editor-in-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S.,M.D. [1] Phone:617-632-7753; Associate Editor-In-Chief: Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan, M.B.B.S., Irfan Dotani


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a pattern of frequent, constant worry and anxiety over many different activities and events.

What are the symptoms of Generalized anxiety disorder?

  • The main symptom is the constant presence of worry or tension, even when there is little or no cause. Worries seem to float from one problem to another, such as family or relationship problems, work issues, money, health, and other problems.
  • Even when aware that their worries or fears are stronger than needed, a person with GAD still has difficulty controlling them.
  • Other symptoms include:
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Problems falling or staying asleep, and sleep that is often restless and unsatisfying
  • Restlessness and often becoming startled very easily
  • Along with the worries and anxieties, a number of physical symptoms may also be present, including muscle tension (shakiness, headaches) and stomach problems, such as nausea or diarrhea.

What causes Generalized anxiety disorder?

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common condition. Genes may play a role. Stress may also contribute to the development of GAD.
  • Anyone can develop this disorder, even kids. Most people with the disorder report that they have been anxious for as long as they can remember.
  • GAD occurs somewhat more often in women than in men.

When to seek urgent medical care?

Call your health care provider if you constantly worry and feel anxious and it interferes with your daily activities.


The health care provider will perform a physical and mental health exam. Tests will be done to rule out other conditions and behaviors that cause similar symptoms.

Treatment options

  • Medications are an important part of treatment. Once you start them, do not suddenly stop without talking with your health care provider. Medications that may be used include:
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps you understand your behaviors and how to gain control of them. You will have 10 to 20 visits over a number of weeks. During therapy you will learn how to:
  • Understand and gain control of your distorted views of life stressors, such as other people's behavior or life events.
  • Recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts, decreasing the sense of helplessness.
  • Manage stress and relax when symptoms occur.
  • Avoid thinking that minor worries will develop into very bad problems.
  • A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, enough rest, and good nutrition can help reduce the impact of anxiety.

Where to find medical care for Generalized anxiety disorder?

Medical care for Generalized anxiety disorder can be found here.

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

How well a person does depends on the severity of the condition. GAD may continue and be difficult to treat. However, most patients get better with a combination of medication and [[behavioral therapy.

Possible complications

Depression and substance abuse may occur with an anxiety disorder.


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