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Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Introduction
Generalized anxiety disorder is a common type of anxiety disorder.  People with generalized anxiety disorder experience excessive worry and anxiety over daily circumstances.  They may feel that they have little control over their internal tension and it may interfere with their lives.  Generalized anxiety disorder is treatable with therapy, medications, or both.

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Causes
The exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown.  In some cases, it appears to run in families.  Researchers suspect that brain abnormalities may be a contributing factor.  It may be that too much or too little of certain brain chemicals affect the way that the brain processes thoughts and emotions.

Generalized anxiety disorder may develop at any age, including childhood.  More women than men experience this condition.  Many people report that they have always felt anxious.

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Symptoms
The diagnostic criterion for generalized anxiety disorder specifies that symptoms must be present for at least six months.  Generalized anxiety disorder may cause you to worry and feel anxious about everyday tasks, such as automobile repair, family interactions, or your job duties.  You may feel restless and very stressed out.  It may be difficult for you to concentrate on or complete ordinary tasks.  Depression, panic disorder, and substance abuse are may co-exist with generalized anxiety disorder.
 
Generalized anxiety disorder can cause physical symptoms as well.  You may feel irritable, tired, weak, and shaky. You may experience excessive sweating, shortness of breath, and feel your heart beating in your chest.  Headaches and muscle tension are associated with generalized anxiety disorder.  You may experience problems sleeping.  It may be difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or to “get a good night’s sleep.”  Generalized anxiety disorder can contribute to digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome.

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Diagnosis
A psychiatrist can begin to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder by reviewing your medical history, reviewing your symptoms, and conducting evaluations or questionnaires.  You should tell your doctor about your symptoms, how long they last, and when they occur.  Your doctor will ask you questions to help diagnose generalized anxiety disorder and any co-existing conditions.  Your doctor will consider all of your information and responses to determine if your symptoms meet the specific diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder.

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Treatment
Treatments for generalized anxiety disorder can provide symptom relief and allow people to live active and full lives.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help identify thoughts that cause worry and anxiety and strategies to deal with them.  Relaxation training may help to reduce tension.  Support groups for people with anxiety disorders are a place to receive information and support from people with similar situations.  Anti-depressant, anti-anxiety, and sleep inducing medications can be extremely helpful as well.  In many cases, medication and therapy are both used.  Additionally, it is beneficial to stop using caffeine products or other stimulants. 

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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.