Excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry can interfere with your daily activities and may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder, but treatment can help.
It's normal to feel anxious from time to time, especially if your life is stressful. However, excessive, ongoing anxiety and worry that are difficult to control and interfere with day-to-day activities may be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder.
It's possible to develop generalized anxiety disorder as a child or an adult. Generalized anxiety disorder has symptoms that are similar to panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other types of anxiety, but they're all different conditions.
Living with generalized anxiety disorder can be a long-term challenge. In many cases, it occurs along with other anxiety or mood disorders. In most cases, generalized anxiety disorder improves with psychotherapy or medications. Making lifestyle changes, learning coping skills and using relaxation techniques also can help.
Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms can vary. They may include:
Physical signs and symptoms may include:
There may be times when your worries don't completely consume you, but you still feel anxious even when there's no apparent reason. For example, you may feel intense worry about your safety or that of your loved ones, or you may have a general sense that something bad is about to happen.
Your anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause you significant distress in social, work or other areas of your life. Worries can shift from one concern to another and may change with time and age.
Children and teenagers may have similar worries to adults, but also may have excessive worries about:
A child or teen with excessive worry may:
Some anxiety is normal, but see your doctor if:
Your worries are unlikely to simply go away on their own, and they may actually get worse over time. Try to seek professional help before your anxiety becomes severe — it may be easier to treat early on.
As with many mental health conditions, the cause of generalized anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of biological and environmental factors, which may include:
Women are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder somewhat more often than men are. The following factors may increase the risk of developing generalized anxiety disorder:
Having generalized anxiety disorder can be disabling. It can:
Generalized anxiety disorder can also lead to or worsen other physical health conditions, such as:
Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs along with other mental health problems, which can make diagnosis and treatment more challenging. Some mental health disorders that commonly occur with generalized anxiety disorder include:
There's no way to predict for certain what will cause someone to develop generalized anxiety disorder, but you can take steps to reduce the impact of symptoms if you experience anxiety:
To help diagnose generalized anxiety disorder, your doctor or mental health professional may:
Treatment decisions are based on how significantly generalized anxiety disorder is affecting your ability to function in your daily life. The two main treatments for generalized anxiety disorder are psychotherapy and medications. You may benefit most from a combination of the two. It may take some trial and error to discover which treatments work best for you.
Also known as talk therapy or psychological counseling, psychotherapy involves working with a therapist to reduce your anxiety symptoms. Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective form of psychotherapy for generalized anxiety disorder.
Generally a short-term treatment, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on teaching you specific skills to directly manage your worries and help you gradually return to the activities you've avoided because of anxiety. Through this process, your symptoms improve as you build on your initial success.
Several types of medications are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, including those below. Talk with your doctor about benefits, risks and possible side effects.
While most people with anxiety disorders need psychotherapy or medications to get anxiety under control, lifestyle changes also can make a difference. Here's what you can do:
Several herbal remedies have been studied as treatments for anxiety. Results tend to be mixed, and in several studies people report no benefits from their use. More research is needed to fully understand the risks and benefits.
Some herbal supplements, such as kava and valerian, increase the risk of serious liver damage. Other supplements, such as passionflower or theanine, may have a calming effect, but they're often combined with other products so it's hard to tell whether they help with symptoms of anxiety.
Before taking any herbal remedies or supplements, talk with your doctor to make sure they're safe and won't interact with any medications you take.
To cope with generalized anxiety disorder, here's what you can do:
You may see your primary care doctor, or your doctor may refer you to a mental health professional. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
Some questions to ask your doctor may include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor or mental health professional will likely ask you a number of questions. Be ready to answer them to reserve time to go over any points you want to focus on. Questions may include: