Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Thursday, March 21, 2024 @ 5:34 PM

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 5.7% of adults 18 years of age and older will at some point in life experience Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). It affects about 6.8 million American adults, including twice as many women as men. The disorder develops gradually and can begin at any point in the life cycle, although the years of highest risk are between 30 - 59 years of age. Most fall into the moderate range of anxiety at 44.6%.

In adolescents, twice as many females than males suffer and with the highest incidence in ages 15-18. There is evidence that genes play a role in GAD.

People with GAD go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little or nothing to provoke it. They anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems, or difficulties at work. Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety.

Many people with GAD can function normally when the anxiety level is mild (i.e., hold down jobs, interact socially and manage life normally). However, some people are debilitated so much that they cannot keep a job, relationships are affected and even marriages end.

GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least six months. People with GAD can’t seem to get rid of their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. They can’t relax, may startle easily, have difficulty concentrating and have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

Signs and Symptoms
Feeling keyed up or on edge
Feeling a lump in your throat
Difficulty concentrating
Being easily distracted
Muscle tension
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Excessive sweating
Shortness of breath  
Intense worry 
Difficulty swallowing

GAD often begins at an early age, and the signs and symptoms may develop more slowly than in other anxiety disorders. Many people with GAD can't recall when they last felt relaxed or at ease.


Talk with your health care professional to determine which treatment or combination of treatments will be the best for you. For example:

Psychotherapy: Having someone who will help process through difficulties and listen attentively offers many people relief from anxiety. Therapy helps identify unhealthy, negative beliefs and behaviors and replaces them with healthy, positive ones. Even if an unwanted situation doesn't change, you can change the way you think and behave. Therapy emphasizes learning to develop a sense of mastery and control over thoughts and feelings. EMDR therapy is a powerful tool to deal with anxiety and Spirit of Hope offers that option.

Medication: Several different types of medications are used to relieve GAD symptoms and work well.  Some include:

Anti-anxiety medications such as Benzodiazepines relieve anxiety within 30 to 90 minutes, but can be habit-forming and doctors may prescribe only short-term.

Antidepressants influence the activity of certain neurotransmitters in the brain that play a role in anxiety disorders. These medications are usually taken daily and can be very helpful in minimizing the anxiety.