Merck Manual

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)


The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2019| Content last modified Apr 2019
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What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Anxiety is being worried or nervous. Anxiety is often normal. For example, many people are anxious when they're having money problems, trouble at work, or family difficulties. However, if you're anxious a lot of the time even when you aren't having problems or the problems aren't bad, then you have an anxiety disorder.

There are many types of anxiety disorders. If you're anxious about only one particular thing, such as being in a crowd, you may have a phobia. If most of the time you don't feel anxious but sometimes suddenly become panicked, you may have a panic disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder is when you're anxious or worried about a number of different things.

  • Generalized anxiety disorder is common, particularly in women

  • You feel anxious about a variety of issues, activities, and situations

  • You worry more than the situation requires

  • Medicines and therapy can help

What are the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?

If you have generalized anxiety disorder, you:

  • Feel constantly worried or upset over many everyday things (such as family, work, or money)

  • Have a hard time controlling your worry

  • Feel worried or nervous most days for at least 6 months

You also have at least 3 of these symptoms:

  • Feeling keyed up or on edge

  • Easily get tired

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Irritability

  • Tense muscles

  • Poor sleep

Your symptoms usually get worse when you're actually having problems.

How can doctors tell if I have generalized anxiety disorder?

Doctors will ask about your anxiety and physical symptoms and do a physical exam. They may do a blood test to rule out other causes for your symptoms.

How do doctors treat generalized anxiety disorder?

Doctors treat generalized anxiety disorder with medicines and therapy sessions.

Medicines may include:

  • Antidepressants

  • Antianxiety medicines

A therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you learn to:

  • Recognize when your thinking is incorrect

  • Control your incorrect thinking

  • Change your behavior

Your doctor may also recommend mind-body techniques such as:

  • Relaxation

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Exercise

  • Biofeedback techniques

NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version
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