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Generalized anxiety disorder

It can be easy to get overwhelmed or feel anxious during times of change, a big event, or daily hassles. When could those symptoms be caused by something more serious?

Generalized anxiety disorder is excessive worrying impacting areas of daily life. It can be tricky deciphering generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) from a lot of worrying.

Similar to other mental health disorders, GAD symptoms worsen over time if left untreated. Diagnosed more frequently in women than men, you often find GAD running in families.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) identifies a GAD diagnosis if an individual had experienced symptoms for more than six months and has at least three of the physical symptoms. Diagnostic criteria are different in children. It is important to talk with your doctor if you experience the following symptoms:

  • Experiencing upsetting thoughts out of proportion to a situation or event
  • Worrying excessively or feeling as if you aren’t able to stop worrying
  • Inability to relax
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling on edge
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Stomach issues
  • Muscle tension
  • Dwelling on a possible scenario and wondering about the correct decision
  • Fretting over daily occurrences at work or school or during social interactions
  • Perfectionism
  • Avoidance

These are the most common symptoms of GAD. Symptom severity and duration can vary from person to person. Keep track of the frequency and onset of symptoms to discuss at your appointment. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the disorder and discuss treatment options.

An individual struggling with an anxiety disorder may be more likely to feel depressed or use unhealthy coping techniques to cope with worrying, including misuse of drugs or alcohol.

It is important to talk to your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing. There are treatment options available, including medication, talk therapy and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and healthy lifestyle and self-care.

Some medications prescribed for anxiety disorders are also used to manage depression. These medications need to be taken consistently and sometimes take a few weeks to fully work. Talk with your doctor about the best option for you.

CBT has been found to be a beneficial therapy for individuals struggling with anxiety disorders. The focus in treatment is how our thoughts determine our actions. A mental health professional can work with you to manage symptoms.

Our lifestyle and daily habits can impact anxiety disorder symptoms and severity. It is important to manage physical health along with stress level, proper nutrition, and physical activity in order to make peace with your life and fight off anxiety.


“Generalized Anxiety Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, 25 Sept. 2014,