Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Medical Author:
Michael J. Peterson, MD, PhD
Medical Editor:
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler’s educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Generalized anxiety disorder facts

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common category of psychiatric diagnoses.
  • The most common anxiety disorders are specific phobias. Besides generalized anxiety disorder, other anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, selective mutism, social anxiety disorder (social phobia), panic disorder, and agoraphobia.
  • Anxiety disorders can also be caused by some medical conditions, medications, or substances.
  • Signs and symptoms of anxiety may be physical (racing heart, shortness of breath, sweating), emotional (panic, feeling worried, stress), behavioral (nervous habits, compulsions), and cognitive (racing thoughts, worries, obsessions). Many of these signs and symptoms are similar to the body's normal "fight-or-flight" response to danger.
  • Children and adolescents may have symptoms of anxiety either similar to or quite different from those of adults, depending on the specific diagnosis and age of the individual.
  • There also seem to be gender-related differences in how many men and women experience and show anxiety.
  • While obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) used to be classified as an anxiety disorder, it is now grouped with other compulsive disorders.
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been reclassified as a trauma-related disorder instead of an anxiety disorder.
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by excessive worries that interfere with the person's life in some way.
  • GAD is quite common, affecting millions of people.
  • While there is no single cause of GAD, there are many factors that increase the risk of developing this disorder.
  • If a medical or mental-health professional suspects that you have GAD, you will likely undergo an extensive medical interview and physical examination.
  • GAD usually requires treatment for it to resolve. Treatment of GAD usually involves some combination of lifestyle changes, psychotherapy, and/or medication.
  • It is important for the individual with an anxiety disorder to work closely with their prescribing doctor to decide whether treatment with medications is an appropriate intervention, and if so, which medication should be administered.
  • Various lifestyle choices and family interventions can also help prevent and decrease anxiety.
  • There are many support groups and resources for people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/7/2015

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