People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) worry constantly, even though there is little or nothing to worry about. They foresee disasters everywhere and are overly concerned about minor health issues, money, family concerns, or work difficulties. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about a variety of everyday problems for at least 6 months. People with GAD usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than it should be but they just can't seem to stop worrying. They startle easily, have difficulty concentrating and can never seem to relax. They often have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Physical symptoms may accompany the anxiety including fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, muscle aches, trembling, twitching, irritability, difficulty swallowing, nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, sweating and hot flashes.
When their anxiety level is low, people with GAD can function at home and hold a job. When their anxiety level is high, people with GAD can have difficulty carrying out the simplest daily activities or even leaving their house. Symptoms develop gradually and can begin at any time of life, although the years of highest risk are between childhood and middle age.
Other anxiety disorders, depression, or substance abuse often accompany GAD, which rarely occurs alone. GAD is commonly treated with medication or cognitive-behavioral therapy, but any other conditions must also be treated in order for the anxiety therapy to be effective.