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Generalized Anxiety Disorder


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

is a condition that causes you to feel worried or nervous for at least 6 months. The anxiety may be much more severe than the event causing it. You may not be able to do your daily activities because of the anxiety.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You feel like hurting yourself or someone else.
  • You have chest pain, tightness, or heaviness that may spread to your shoulders, arms, jaw, neck, or back.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You feel like fainting or are lightheaded or too dizzy to stand up.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have new symptoms since your last visit.
  • Your anxiety keeps you from doing your daily activities, such as self-care, family, or work.
  • You have problems that you think may be caused by the medicine you are taking.
  • Your symptoms are getting worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Common signs and symptoms:

You may have symptoms like those of a serious health problem, such as a heart problem. You may be anxious and worried more often than not, and have a hard time controlling worry. You may also have any of the following:

  • Fatigue or muscle tightness
  • Shaking, restlessness, or sleep problems
  • Dizziness or headaches
  • Feeling jumpy or easily startled
  • Problems focusing on a task
  • Cold hands
  • Rapid heartbeat or shortness of breath


may include any of the following:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) involves changing your emotions by changing your behavior. Your healthcare provider may recommend different kinds of CBT. A therapist may help you learn to handle thoughts that produce anxiety. Exposure or desensitization therapy helps you face a feared object, person, or situation. Relaxation therapy involves deep breathing, muscle relaxation, or music to help you relax.
  • Medicines may be given to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression and help you feel relaxed and calm.

Monitor your condition:

Keep a record of the situations that cause your symptoms. Bring the record with you when you see your healthcare provider. Include the following:

  • What were you doing when the symptoms started?
  • Had you eaten anything unusual, or taken a new medicine or herbal supplement?
  • Were you stressed or upset during the time leading up to the attack?
  • How often do you have symptoms? How long do they last?
  • What were your thoughts and feelings during these situations?
  • What symptoms did you have?
  • Did anything help ease or stop the symptoms, such as a relaxation technique?


  • Limit or do not drink caffeine. Caffeine can increase your heartbeat and make your anxiety symptoms worse.
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you. You may not be able to drink alcohol if you take certain anxiety or depression medicines. Alcohol can also increase depression. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day if you are a woman. Limit alcohol to 2 drinks per day if you are a man. A drink of alcohol is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1½ ounces of liquor.
  • Manage stress. Stress may increase symptoms of GAD. Relaxation therapy teaches you how to feel less physical and emotional stress. Deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and music are some forms of relaxation therapy.
  • Avoid hyperventilating. Some people may hyperventilate during an anxiety attack and not even notice it. Hyperventilation means that your breaths are too fast and shallow. Breathing this way can cause numbness or tingling in your hands and lips. During an anxiety attack, focus on taking very slow, deep breaths. Your healthcare provider may show you how to breathe in and out of a paper bag when you hyperventilate. Never use a plastic bag.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.