Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized by persistent, excessive, and unrealistic worry about everyday things.
People with the disorder, which is also referred to as GAD, experience excessive anxiety and worry, often expecting the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern. They anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. GAD is diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to control worry on more days than not for at least six months and has three or more symptoms. Learn more symptoms.
Sometimes just the thought of getting through the day produces anxiety. They don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants.
GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year. Women are twice as likely to be affected.
The disorder comes on gradually and can begin across the life cycle, though the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Although the exact cause of GAD is unknown, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, particularly stressful ones, play a role.
When their anxiety level is mild, people with GAD can function socially and be gainfully employed. Although they may avoid some situations because they have the disorder, some people can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities when their anxiety is severe.
Find Out More
- Watch videos about the difference between GAD and general anxiety, plus treatment options.
- Learn the difference between general anxiety about the economy and generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD.
Updated October 2015