Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is uncontrollable, excessive anxiety and excessive worry across several situations that happen on more days than not, lasting a period of at least six months. A person with GAD finds it very difficult to control or discontinue the worry, or anxiety, despite their best efforts to do so. Excessive anxiety is also referred to as anxious apprehension in the literature. This term was coined because anxiety is viewed as an emotion, focused on the future, where a person is preparing to deal with some anticipated negative circumstance. Excessive worry is referred to as apprehensive expectation because a person is always expecting some sort of terrible event will happen at any moment and that they are not safe. The feeling would be similar to walking around in a mine field while blindfolded.
The anxiety and worries of GAD are not as specific as they are in the other disorders already discussed, such as Phobias and Panic Disorder. Instead, they are more "general," hence the name - Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Adults with GAD tend to worry about everyday things such as finances, job responsibilities, and tending to one's home and family. Children are apt to worry about their abilities, future events, past behaviors, making mistakes, and school performance. As a result of this chronic worrying and anxiety, people with GAD feel "keyed up" or "on edge" much of the time. They have difficulty concentrating, and they can become quite irritable or easily fatigued. Sleep disturbances are quite common. The focus of the worry can shift throughout the course of GAD. For instance, if someone with GAD was worrying a lot about their finances, but then received a big promotion at work, their worry would simply shift to something else, such as worrying about the new job responsibilities they now have.
While everyone may tend to worry about their finances, job, and family from time-to-time (which can actually be an adaptive way of coping), individuals with GAD experience anxiety and worry that is out of proportion. They tend to overestimate risk, or to misjudge the likelihood of a negative outcome of some future event. Adults with GAD may not see their anxiety as excessive, but they usually agree that it is having a negative impact on their functioning. However, children may be unaware of this impairment. Treatment for GAD is found in the Treatment Section.