Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is much more than the anxiety experienced by the average individual on a daily basis.  It is a chronic condition, plaguing the sufferer with worry, dread, and the persistent anticipation of disaster.  At times, the real source of the worry  is hard to pinpoint.  Physical symptoms are often experienced.  Such symptoms typically include fatigue, muscle tension, headaches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, sweating, frequent urination, lightheadedness or nausea.

Other symptoms of GAD involve an excessive tendency to startle, difficulty relaxing, concentration problems and insomnia.  Unlike some of the other anxiety disorders, GAD does not typically involve an avoidance response as a result of their disorder.    The symptoms can be mild or severe, sometimes making it difficult to carry out the most basic daily routines.
About five percent of Americans are diagnosed with this disorder.  GAD affects twice as many women than men, and the risk is highest between childhood and middle age.  GAD is thought to be at least moderately influenced by heredity.  GAD may occur in conjunction with another anxiety disorder, depression or substance abuse and these other problems will need to be considered as part of the overall treatment plan.

Generally, treatment includes both psychotherapy and medication.  The psychotherapy typically occurs in individual treatment sessions focusing on dysfunctional cognitions and behaviors related to the GAD.  Medications most commonly prescribed for the symptoms of GAD may include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), benzodiazepines and beta-blockers.  Meditation, yoga and other wellness techniques may help teach self-soothing techniques and can enhance the effects of therapy.  There is also evidence that aerobic exercise may be of value.  It is well-known that caffeine, illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of GAD.

Having information from reliable sources can usually help in decreasing anxiety.  Additional information may be obtained by contacting some of the following organizations.

Anxiety Disorders Association of America
8730 Georgia Ave., Suite 600
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Phone: 240-485-1001
Fax: 240-485-1035
URL: http://www.adaa.org
Association for Advancement of Behavior Therapy (AABT)
305 7th Avenue, 16th floor
New York, NY 10001
Phone: 212-647-1890
URL: http://www.aabt.org
Freedom from Fear
308 Seaview Avenue
Staten Island, NY 10305
Phone: 718-351-1717
URL: http://www.freedomfromfear.com
Center for Mental Health Services
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Rm. 12-105 Parklawn Building
Rockville, MD 20857
Phone: 301-443-8956
Fax: 301-443-9050
URL: http://www.samhsa.gov/
National Institute of Mental Health
Office of Communications
6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 8184, MSC 9663
Bethesda, MD 20892-9663
Phone: 301-443-4513
Fax: 301-443-4279
Toll Free: 1-866-615-NIMH (6464)
TTY: 301-443-8431
Email: nimhinfo@nih.gov
URL: http://www.nimh.nih.gov