Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent anxiety, exaggerated worry, and chronic tension even when there is little or nothing to provoke it. There may be an anticipation of disaster, or perhaps overconcern with health issues, money, family members, or difficulties at work.
People with GAD usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants, but this does little to relax or calm them. Sleep disorders are common, and physical symptoms may include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, shortness of breath, racing heartbeat, and other fear reactions.
GAD affects about 7 million adult Americans, and about twice as many women as men. The disorder comes on gradually and can begin anytime during the life cycle. There is some evidence that it may be at least partly due to genetics. People with GAD often have coexisting difficulties such as depression or substance abuse.
An anti-anxiety medication can help reduce the symptoms and a measure of relief quite quickly. Psychotherapy is then warranted to help establish methods of self-quieting and relaxation. Cognitive-behavioral and hypnotherapeutic techniques are especially helpful.