Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is defined by excessive and irrational worrying about events and activities to come. Generally these worries are about everyday things such as money issues, interpersonal issues, health issues, and similar things. With GAD these worries are often constant and can quickly begin to cause significant distress during everyday activities. People who suffer from GAD tend to exhibit many of the normal symptoms that anxiety tends to show. ICD-10 lists  fatigue, fidgeting, headaches, nausea, numbness in hands and feet, muscle tension, muscle aches, difficulty swallowing, excessive stomach acid buildup, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, bouts of breathing difficulty, difficulty concentrating, trembling, twitching, irritability, agitation, sweating, restlessness, insomnia, hot flashes, rashes, and inability to fully control the anxiety as common symptoms1.  Generally speaking, GAD is considered chronic, however it can be managed or eliminated with proper treatment and care.


Generalized anxiety Disorder is fairly common.According to the National Institute of Mental Health (US) about 3.1% of adult americans suffer from GAD, approximately 10 million individuals (as of 2016). World wide about 4% are affected which is approximately 293 million people. Of these cases, about 31% are said to be severe cases.23


Like any mental disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be treated in a number of ways, most prominently with various types of therapy aided by professionals and of course with medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is by far the most common type of therapy. Counselors and Psychologists generally focus on helping their patient to create specific skills to help cope during the day to day. Skills like self-monitoring (which closely resembles mindfulness), positive problem solving techniques, living in the current moment, and even simple discussions about what is being felt have been found to be extremely helpful skills to help mitigate the symptoms of GAD both in the long term and short term.

Additionally, medication can quite helpful. The use of antidepressant type medications can be very helpful long term, as they tend to provide the necessary energy to start working on non-medication treatment plans. Benzodiazepines are also used for more acute symptoms as the short term effects of this class of medications are very powerful. Generally speaking, prescribers avoid prescribing this for daily long term use as it is a controlled, addictive, substance and can negatively impact anxiety after extended periods of use. There are many other drug types that are used, however these are the two most common general medication classes.

International Classification of Diseases ICD-10. International Classification of Diseases); 2016.
NIMH » Generalized Anxiety Disorder Among Adults. Published September 28, 2016. Accessed September 28, 2016.
Craske M, Stein M. Anxiety. Lancet. June 2016. [PubMed]