Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

  • Medical Author: Michael J. Peterson, MD, PhD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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Quick GuideGeneralized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) Pictures Slideshow: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

How do health-care professionals diagnose generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

According to the DSM-5, the diagnosis GAD requires the following criteria, which must be present at least six months for more than half of the time:

  • Excessive anxiety and worry. Worry is about a number of events or activities (for example, work or school performance, relationships, social functioning; worry not limited just to one topic).
  • The worry is difficult to control.
  • The anxiety and worry are associated with at least three of the following symptoms:
    • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
    • Easily fatigued
    • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
    • Irritability
    • Muscle tension
    • Sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep; or restless, unsatisfying sleep)
  • The anxiety, worry, and/or physical symptoms cause significant distress and/or impairment. Impairment may be in social, occupational, or other important aspects of life.
  • The anxiety and worry are not better explained by a medical condition, a substance (drug of abuse or medication). They are also not better explained by a different psychiatric diagnosis.

If a health-care professional suspects that you have GAD, you will likely undergo an extensive medical interview and physical examination. As part of this examination, you may be asked a series of questions from a standardized questionnaire or self-test to help assess your risk of anxiety. The answers to these questions will help assess whether you meet the diagnostic criteria for GAD (as described above). Because anxiety may be associated with a number of other medical conditions or can be a side effect of various medications, routine laboratory tests are often performed during the initial evaluation to rule out other causes of your symptoms. Occasionally, an X-ray, scan, or other imaging study may be needed.

What types of specialists treat generalized anxiety disorder?

Many health-care professionals may help determine the diagnosis and recommend treatment for individuals with GAD; these include licensed mental-health therapists, family physicians, or other primary-care professionals, specialists whom you see for a medical condition, emergency physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and social workers.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/7/2015

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