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When worry becomes excessive: Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Adults who have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, may worry about things like work, health, finances and household responsibilities, whereas children and teens who have GAD may fret about school, sports or natural disasters.

Everyone worries now and then—for instance, about our bills, jobs or families. But some of us worry to the extreme. When that happens, it may be a condition called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). And it can interfere with our day-to-day lives.

The following will help you learn more about GAD, its symptoms and how health professionals can help people cope with it.

Q: What is the definition of GAD?
A: GAD is a disorder in which a person has excessive and frequent worries that are hard to control. For instance, adults who have GAD may worry about things like work, health, finances and household responsibilities, whereas children and teens who have GAD may fret about school, sports or natural disasters.

Q: What causes GAD?
A: No one knows, but the tendency to develop it runs in some families, and biological factors and stressful events may play a role. On a deep level, people with GAD may have a hard time accepting uncertainty, a common thread among all anxiety disorders.

Q: Who gets GAD?
A: Millions of people in the U.S. have GAD. It often starts during the teen or young adult years, and it affects more women than men.

Q: What are common symptoms?
A: GAD can make you worry a lot about everyday things. You might often think things will turn out much worse than they actually do. And you may have trouble controlling your feelings of dread, even though you realize you worry more than you should. The anxiety can be worse during times of stress and uncertainty.

Other symptoms may include:

  • Feeling restless and having trouble relaxing.
  • Having a hard time focusing on daily tasks, such as work or school.
  • Being easily startled.
  • Having trouble sleeping.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Having unexplained aches and pains.
  • Feeling irritated or on edge.

Q: How is GAD treated?
A: Treatments may include getting counseling, taking medications or both. If you think you might have GAD, let your doctor know. It’s the first step toward feeling better.

Sources: Anxiety and Depression Association of America; National Institute of Mental Health

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