Anxious man with hands in front of face

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is characterized by persistent and uncontrollable worry regarding a number of different things. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, GAD currently affects an estimated 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population. Women are twice as likely to struggle with this disorder than men.

General Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

This disorder has a gradual onset that can begin at any age, the risk being the highest during childhood and middle age.

  • Excessive, ongoing worry and tension
  • An unrealistic view of problems
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Nausea
  • The need to go to the bathroom frequently
  • Tiredness
  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Trembling
  • Being easily startled

GAD is a complex disorder that is caused by a combination of genetic, behavioral, developmental and other factors.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Before a treatment plan can be created, a doctor must first conduct an exam. The doctor will ask simple questions regarding family history to make sure an unrelated physical problem is not causing GAD symptoms.

GAD is usually treated with psychotherapy, medication or both. A primary care physician may refer patients to a specialist to determine which course of treatment is best for his or her individual needs.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one type of therapy that is particularly helpful in the treatment of GAD. In CBT, the patient will work with a mental health counselor in a limited number of sessions. CBT helps those treated become more aware of negative thinking so they can view certain situations more clearly and respond to them in a more positive way.


If a patient and his or her doctors decide that medication is appropriate, they will work together to create a short-term and long-term medication plan.

Anti-anxiety medications are not meant to be taken for long periods of time, as they can cause a high risk of dependence and abuse. A common short-term anti-anxiety medication is alprazolam (Xanax). This may be prescribed to be taken on an as-needed basis to ward off extreme anxiety or panic attacks.

Antidepressants can work well over a long period of time. Some common antidepressants are buspirone (Buspar), citalopram (Celexa), and escitalopram (Lexapro.)

Lifestyle Changes

  • Regular exercise, a healthy diet, and plenty of sleep
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Avoiding stimulants, such as coffee or nicotine
  • Having regular talks with a trusted friend, spouse, or family member

How Can You Help?

At Lehigh Center, we conduct clinical trials that test and measure the effectiveness of experimental general anxiety disorder medications. If you or a family member struggles with GAD, please consider applying for one of our current studies. Volunteers like you could make all the difference in the lives of patients everywhere.