Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health concern characterized by a debilitating sense of worry and anxiousness about one’s life that isn’t centered on any specific concern, trigger, or stress. It can impact a person’s entire life and make it difficult for them to function on a daily basis.

How common is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Approximately 9 percent of people will develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) during their lifetime. In any given year, approximately 3 percent of the population of the U.S. has generalized anxiety disorder.

It appears that some people are genetically predisposed to developing the disorder. Women are twice as likely to have GAD than men.

Is GAD a chronic condition?

Yes. Many individuals with GAD report that they felt anxious and nervous all their lives. Over half of the people that come for treatment report their worry beginning in childhood or adolescence. However, it is not uncommon to begin until after age 20. GAD usually has a fluctuating course, worsening during times of stress.

How can I be sure that my physical symptoms are not really something medical that just hasn’t been found yet?

This is a natural concern for individuals with GAD and fits into the theme of excessive worry. This worry is best addressed by establishing a relationship with a physician that you feel is listening to your complaints and thoughtfully tailoring your medical work-up to your specific risks for having certain medical problems. An excessive and unreasonable series of tests and procedures is not in your best interest.

Can generalized anxiety disorder just go away by itself?

Generally GAD doesn’t go away on its own, at least in most people. Generalized anxiety disorder is generally viewed as a chronic condition requiring intervention and treatment. Both mental health professionals and physicians treat GAD, but long-term, effective treatment of GAD will include both psychotherapy and medication.

Are there any diagnostic tests for generalized anxiety disorder?

GAD cannot be detected through a blood sample or an X-ray; neither can many diseases and conditions. Instead, generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed based on information provided to a physician or therapist during a clinical interview.

Does generalized anxiety disorder run in families?

Having a family member with GAD appears to heighten one’s risk slightly for developing it. The family influence appears to be related to both genetic and environmental sources. There may be, for instance, a genetic predisposition for a person to be at greater risk for having generalized anxiety disorder, but it’s not something triggered in everyone who has the predisposition.