How Common Is GAD?
About 4 million adult Americans suffer from GAD during the course of a year. It most often begins in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood. It is more common in women than in men.
How Is GAD Diagnosed?
If symptoms of GAD are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by asking questions about your medical history and performing a physical exam. Although there are no lab tests to specifically diagnose anxiety disorders, the doctor may use various tests to look for physical illness as the cause of symptoms.
The doctor bases his or her diagnosis of GAD on reports of the intensity and duration of symptoms -- including any problems with functioning caused by the symptoms. The doctor then determines if the symptoms and degree of dysfunction indicate a specific anxiety disorder. GAD is diagnosed if symptoms are present for more days than not during a period of at least six months. The symptoms also must interfere with daily living, such as causing you to miss work or school.
How Is GAD Treated?
If no physical illness is found, you may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist, mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses like GAD. Treatment for GAD most often includes a combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy.
In addition, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and biofeedback, may help control the muscle tension that often accompanies GAD.
Are There Side Effects of GAD Treatment?
Dependency on anti-anxiety medications (benzodiazepines) is a potential complication of treatment. Side effects of antidepressants vary by specific drug and the person taking them. Common side effects can include sleepiness, weight gain, and sexual problems.
What Is the Outlook for People With GAD?
Although many people with GAD cannot be cured and symptoms can return from time to time, most people gain substantial relief from their symptoms with proper treatment.
Can GAD Be Prevented?
Anxiety disorders like GAD cannot be prevented. However, there are some things that you can do to control or lessen symptoms, including:
WebMD Medical Reference
Last Editorial Review: 2/20/2012