What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder: Overview

We all worry. It's a normal part of life. But when you have generalized anxiety disorder, you worry about lots of things. You have a hard time not worrying. This worry or anxiety interferes with your relationships, work or school, and other areas of your life.

You may worry most days about things like money, health, work, or friends. That may make you feel tired, tense, or cranky. It can make it hard to think. It may get in the way of healthy sleep.

Counseling and medicine can both work to treat anxiety. They are often used together with lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep. Treatment can include a type of counseling called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. It helps you notice and replace thoughts that make you worry. You also might have counseling along with those closest to you so that they can help.

Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder happens when you feel anxious so often (and for so long) that it disrupts your daily life. Everyone gets worried or anxious at times. But people who have generalized anxiety disorder have more than normal everyday worries. They feel worried or stressed about many things every day. And these feelings have lasted for many months.

What can you expect when you have generalized anxiety disorder?

Having anxiety can be upsetting. Some people might feel less worried and stressed after a couple of months of treatment. But for other people, it might take longer to feel better.

Reaching out to people for help is important. Try not to isolate yourself. Let your family and friends help you. Find someone you can trust and confide in. Talk to that person.

When you know what anxiety is—and how you can get help for it—you can start to learn new ways of thinking. This can help you cope and work through your anxiety.

What are the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder can make you feel worried and stressed about a lot of things almost every day. You may have a hard time controlling your worry and may feel tired and cranky. You also may feel shaky or sweaty and startle easily. It's also common to have trouble sleeping.

How is generalized anxiety disorder treated?

Generalized anxiety disorder can be treated with counseling, medicines, or both. Counseling includes cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation therapy. Medicines include antidepressants and benzodiazepines. Getting plenty of exercise and sleep can also help.

How is generalized anxiety disorder diagnosed?

To find out if you have this problem, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and how long you have had them. Your doctor will also do a physical exam, ask questions about your medical history, and ask questions about medicines you are taking. This information helps your doctor find out whether you have any other condition.

To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you must have more worry and stress than normal. You must feel worried and stressed about many things almost every day. And these feelings must last for at least 6 months. You will also have some physical symptoms. The worry, stress, and physical symptoms might make it hard for you to do normal activities such as going to work every day or doing grocery shopping.

How can you care for yourself when you have generalized anxiety disorder?

A healthy lifestyle may help with anxiety. Try to be active, eat a healthy diet, and get enough rest. Learn relaxation techniques and how to handle negative thoughts. Avoid alcohol, marijuana, and illegal drugs. Find a counselor who uses cognitive-behavioral therapy. Don't isolate yourself, and let friends and family help you.

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

We all worry. It's a normal part of life. But when you have generalized anxiety disorder, you worry about lots of things and have a hard time stopping your worry. This worry or anxiety interferes with your relationships, work, and life.

What causes generalized anxiety disorder?

The cause of generalized anxiety disorder is not known. Some studies show that it might be passed down through families. Several things can cause symptoms of anxiety. They include some health problems, some medicines, too much caffeine, and illegal drugs such as cocaine.

Generalized anxiety disorder: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You feel you can't stop from hurting yourself or someone else.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away. You can:

  • Call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988.
  • Call 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
  • Text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

Call your doctor or counselor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have new anxiety, or your anxiety gets worse.
  • You have been feeling sad, depressed, or hopeless or have lost interest in things that you usually enjoy.
  • You do not get better as expected.

©2011-2024 Healthwise, Incorporated

The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.