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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) has been referred to as "the 'basic' anxiety disorder" by some researchers since many of the features of GAD are common across the anxiety disorders. As noted on the "What is Anxiety?" page, worry and anxiety are innate and protective mechanisms. GAD, however, is much more than just everyday anxiety and worry-it is characterized by chronic and exaggerated worry that interferes with daily functioning.

Individuals who suffer from GAD typically describe themselves as "worriers" who worry about "everything, all the time". Some individuals with GAD, however, simply worry about one or two concerns. Common worries are health, money, family, or work. In some cases though, the actual source of worry is difficult to pinpoint. The disorder is referred to as "Generalized" Anxiety Disorder because of the pervasiveness and lack of a specific target of concern. Although individuals with GAD may not always identify the worries as "excessive," they report subjective distress due to constant worry, have difficulty controlling the worry, or experience related impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.


The National Institute of Mental Health describes the symptoms of GAD in the following manner: 

People with GAD can't seem to shake their concerns, even though they usually realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation warrants. People with GAD also seem unable to relax. They often have trouble falling or staying asleep. Their worries are accompanied by physical symptoms, especially trembling, twitching, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, sweating or hot flashes. They may feel lightheaded or out of breath. They may feel nauseated or have to go to the bathroom frequently. Or they might feel as though they have a lump in their throat. Many individuals with GAD startle more easily than other people. They tend to feel tired, have trouble concentrating, and sometimes suffer from depression, too (Anxiety Disorders: Decade of the Brain, NIMH).

Please note that this information is not intended for use in self-diagnosis. If you think you may have GAD, please email us at or call at (850) 645-1766 for more information.

Unlike many other anxiety disorders, GAD is not generally associated with restricted impairment in social situations or in occupational settings. Individuals with GAD do not characteristically avoid certain situations as a result of their disorder. However, in severe cases it can be incredibly debilitating. Left untreated, it can lead to impairment in even the most daily activities.

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