Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common condition characterized by constant worry and tension that persists for several months, even when there is little or no cause. This ongoing, severe tension interferes with day-to-day life as people worry constantly and feel helpless to control these worries. People with GAD anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money problems, family dynamics and work difficulties. Sometimes they can barely get through the day because of their heightened anxiety. GAD affects about 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the population.
In children and adolescents, GAD (and other anxiety disorders) can be particularly disabling, with children at times refusing to go to school or participate in other activities that are essential to their growth and learning. Frequently, younger children will complain of symptoms that are more of a somatic nature—with common complaints of tummy aches and headaches.
GAD is mentally and physically exhausting, making normal life difficult and relaxation impossible. Physical symptoms can include: fatigue, headaches, muscle tension and aches, difficulty swallowing, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, breathlessness and hot flashes. Sufferers also may have trouble concentrating, relaxing, falling asleep or staying asleep.
GAD usually develops gradually and may begin at any time, although the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. Those suffering with GAD don’t know how to stop the worry cycle and feel it is beyond their control. In many cases it occurs along with other anxiety or mood disorders.