​Although most people experience some worry and tension during the course of a normal day, individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) experience chronic and exaggerated worry and tension, even when nothing in particular seems to be causing it. People with this disorder almost always anticipate the worst, often worrying excessively about health, money, family, or work. 

Individuals with GAD have trouble putting aside their worries and concerns. They often realize that their anxiety is more intense than the situation calls for, but feel helpless to stop the worry. Individuals with GAD often seem unable to relax. It is quite common for them to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. T hey may also experience physical symptoms, such as trembling, fatigue, muscle tension, nausea, headaches, or sweating. 

GAD typically develops gradually and most often comes about in childhood or adolescence, although it can begin in adulthood also. It is more common in women than in men. It is diagnosed when a person is preoccupied by persistent and exaggerated worrisome thoughts about everyday routine life events and activities over a period of at least six months.


Excessive anxiety and worry, occurring more days than not for at least 6 months, about a number of events or activities. 

The worry is difficult to control.

The anxiety and worry are associated with three (or more) of the following six symptoms:

  • restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge 
  • feeling easily fatigued 
  • difficulty concentrating or mind going blank 
  • irritability 
  • muscle tension 
  • sleep disturbance (difficulty falling or staying asleep, restless unsatisfying sleep)

The anxiety or worry is not caused by another anxiety disorder. 

Symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. 

Symptoms are not caused by the physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drug, medication) or a medical condition (e.g., hyperthyroidism).

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association. ​