Learn About Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

What is the definition of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental disorder in which a person is often worried or anxious about many things and finds it hard to control this anxiety.

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What are the alternative names for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

GAD; Anxiety disorder

What are the causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

The cause of GAD is unknown. Genes may play a role. Stress may also contribute to the development of GAD.

Stress and anxiety

GAD is a common condition. Anyone can develop this disorder, even children. GAD occurs more often in women than in men.

What are the symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

The main symptom is frequent worry or tension for at least 6 months, even when there is little or no clear cause. Worries often seem to float from one problem to another. Problems may involve family, other relationships, work, school, money, and health.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Even when they are aware that worries or fears are stronger than appropriate for the situation, a person with GAD still has difficulty controlling them.

Other symptoms of GAD include:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Problems falling or staying asleep, or sleep that is restless and unsatisfying
  • Restlessness when awake

The person may also have other physical symptoms. These can include muscle tension, upset stomach, sweating, or difficulty breathing.

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What are the current treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

The goal of treatment is to help you feel better and function well in daily life. Talk therapy or medicine alone can be helpful. Sometimes, a combination of these may work best.


Many types of talk therapy may be helpful for GAD. One common and effective talk therapy is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you understand the relationship between your thoughts, behaviors, and symptoms. Often CBT involves a set number of visits. During CBT you can learn how to:

  • Understand and gain control of distorted views of stressors, such as other people's behavior or life events.
  • Recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts to help you feel more in control.
  • Manage stress and relax when symptoms occur.
  • Avoid thinking that minor problems will develop into terrible ones.

Other types of talk therapy may also be helpful in managing symptoms of an anxiety disorder.


Certain medicines, often also used to treat depression, may be very helpful for this disorder. They work by preventing your symptoms or making them less severe. You must take these medicines every day. DO NOT stop taking them without talking with your provider. They include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are most often the first choice of antidepressant.
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are another choice.
Other medicines used to treat depression or medicines used to treat seizures may also be tried.

Medicines called sedatives or hypnotics may also be prescribed.

  • These medicines should only be taken under a health care provider's direction.
  • Your provider will prescribe a limited amount of these drugs. They should not to be used every day.
  • They may be used when symptoms become very severe or when you are about to be exposed to something that always brings on your symptoms.
  • If you are prescribed a sedative, do not drink alcohol while on this medicine.


Other than taking medicine and going to therapy, you can help yourself get better by:

  • Reducing caffeine intake
  • Not using street drugs or large amounts of alcohol
  • Exercising, getting enough rest, and eating healthy foods
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What are the support groups for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

You can ease the stress of having GAD by joining a support group. Sharing with others who have common experiences and problems can help you not feel alone. Support groups are usually not a good substitute for talk therapy or taking medicine, but can be a helpful addition.

  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America -- adaa.org/supportgroups
  • National Institute of Mental Health -- www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help
What is the outlook (prognosis) for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

How well a person does depends on how severe the condition is. In some cases, GAD is long-term and is difficult to treat. Most people get better with medicine and/or talk therapy.

What are the possible complications of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Depression and substance abuse may occur with an anxiety disorder.

When should I contact a medical professional for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Contact your provider if you frequently worry or feel anxious, especially if it interferes with your daily activities.

What are the latest Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Clinical Trials?
A Phase 2/3, Randomized, Double-blind, Parallel Group, Placebo-controlled, Flexible-dose, Multicenter Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of SEP-363856 in the Treatment of Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Summary: A clinical study that will meaure how well SEP-363856 works and how safe it is in adults with Generalized Anixety Disorder. This study will be accepting both male and female subjects between the ages of 18 years and 65 years old. The study will be held in Approximately 50 global study centers and approximately 15 additional centers for a separate Japan population. Participation in the study can be...

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Dietary Counselling Plus Omega-3 Supplementation in the Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Wait-list Controlled Pilot Trial

Summary: This study will assess the feasibility and acceptability of a combination intervention including dietary counselling and omega-3 fatty acid supplementation among women with generalized anxiety disorder. It will be randomized and wait-list controlled with 25 participants completing the 12-week intervention immediately and the other 25 participants completing the intervention after a 12-week wait pe...

What are the Latest Advances for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?
Clinical efficacy and safety of low-dose doxepin in Chinese patients with generalized anxiety disorder: A before-after study.
Internet-based cognitive behavioural therapy combined with attentional bias modification training in generalized anxiety disorder: a randomized, controlled multi-session experiment.
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Behavioral Experiments for Intolerance of Uncertainty: A Randomized Clinical Trial for Adults With Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: April 30, 2022
Published By: Fred K. Berger, MD, addiction and forensic psychiatrist, Scripps Memorial Hospital, La Jolla, CA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

American Psychiatric Association. Anxiety disorders. In: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013;189-234.

Calkins AW, Bui E, Taylor CT, Pollack MH, LeBeau RT, Simon NM. Anxiety disorders. In: Stern TA, Fava M, Wilens TE, Rosenbaum JF, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 32.

Lyness JM. Psychiatric disorders in medical practice. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 369.

National Institute of Mental Health website. Anxiety disorders. www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders. Updated April 2022. Accessed August 9, 2022.