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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is runaway worry. People with GAD often report they can't remember not worrying. It may seem like it is just the way things are, but happily, it doesn't have to be that way. It can be successfully treated. The primary characteristic of GAD is excessive worry, anxiety, or tension nearly every day for several months. The worry is about at least two separate issues. The anxiety feels difficult to control. The worry and anxiety seem far out of proportion to the actual problem or danger (this might be more clear to others than the person worrying). The focus of the worry can evolve or shift around. At least three of the following symptoms are present (with children only one is necessary):
  • Restlessness of feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Muscle tension/aches and pains (children often complain of stomach aches)
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, or restless unsatisfying sleep)
Recent suggested additions to diagnosing and defining GAD include the following behaviors:
  • Strong avoidance of activities or events with possible negative outcomes
  • Extreme time and effort preparing for activities or events with possible negative outcomes
  • Strong procrastination in behavior or decision-making due to worries
  • Repeatedly seeking reassurance due to worries
As is true of any anxiety disorder the symptoms have to significantly impact and impair normal and routine life activities. There is solid evidence that this can be treated. Typical treatment includes Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy and/or medication.