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Generalized anxiety disorder

woman looking stressed out

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) go through the day filled with worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to cause it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least six months. It affects about 6.8 million adult Americans and about twice as many women as men.

Symptoms of GAD include:

  • Unable to relax
  • Startle easily
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tension
  • Muscle aches
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Trembling
  • Twitching
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Having to go to the bathroom frequently
  • Feeling out of breath
  • Hot flashes

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If you think you have an anxiety disorder such as GAD, the first person you should see is your family doctor. A physician can determine whether the symptoms that alarm you are due to an anxiety disorder, another medical condition, or both.

Early treatment can help keep the disease from progressing to its later stages, and people can learn effective ways to live with this disorder. Treatment options include:

  • Medications
  • Cognitive therapy (to change or get rid of destructive thought patterns)
  • Behavioral therapy (to change a person's behavior)
  • A combination of these treatments

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Content last updated: March 29, 2010.

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