Image: Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Dr. Ron Rice, Michigan, Clinical Psychologist

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is characterized by chronic anxiety that persists for at least six months but is unaccompanied by panic attacks, phobias, or obsessions. You simply experience persistent anxiety and worry without the complicating features of other anxiety disorders. To be given a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder, your anxiety and worry must focus on two or more stressful life circumstances (such as finances, relationships, health, school performance) a majority of days during a six-month period. It's common, if you're dealing with generalized anxiety disorder, to have a large number of worries and to spend a lot of your time worrying — yet you have found it difficult to exercise much control over your worrying. Moreover, the intensity and frequency of the worry are always out of proportion to the actual likelihood of the feared events happening.

In addition to frequent worry, generalized anxiety disorder involves having at least three of the following six symptoms (with some symptoms present more days than not over the past six months):

  • Restlessness - feeling keyed up
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulties with sleep

Finally, you're likely to receive a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder if your worry and associated symptoms cause you significant distress and/or interfere with your ability to function occupationally, socially, or in other important areas. Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs together with depression. A competent therapist can usually determine which disorder is primary and which is secondary. In some cases, though, it is difficult to say which came first.

Although there are no specific phobias associated with generalized anxiety disorder, one view brought forth by some mental health professionals suggests that the disorder is sustained by "basic fears" of a broader nature than specific phobias, such as:

  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of not being able to cope
  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of rejection or abandonment
  • Fear of death and disease

Generalized anxiety disorder can be aggravated by any stressful situation that elicits these fears, such as increased demands for performance, intensified marital conflict, physical illness, or any situation that heightens your perception of danger or threat.

The underlying causes of generalized anxiety disorder are unknown. It is likely to involve a combination of heredity, neurobiology, and predisposing childhood experiences, such as excessive parental expectations or parental abandonment and rejection, or parents modeling worry behavior.

The good news is that Generalized Anxiety Disorder is totally treatable with psychotherapy and/or medication.

Remember that Generalized Anxiety Disorder is 100% treatable. It is NOT a mental illness. With psychotherapy and/or medication, you will function better within a few short weeks. Be proactive. Take action! You have the resources to live a meaningful life without chronic anxiety and worry. Call today!