Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental health condition in which you are frequently worried or anxious about a number of different things. Even when there is no clear cause, you are still not able to control your anxiety.
The right treatment can often improve GAD. You and your health care provider should make a treatment plan that could include talk therapy (psychotherapy), medicine, or both.
Your health care provider may prescribe one or more medicines, including:
- An antidepressant, which can help with anxiety and depression. This kind of medicine can take weeks to work. It is a safe medium- to long-term treatment for GAD.
- A benzodiazepine, which acts faster than an antidepressant to control anxiety. But it can become less effective over time. Your doctor may prescribe a benzodiazepine to help your anxiety while you wait for the antidepressant to work.
When taking medicine for GAD:
- Keep your health care provider informed about your symptoms. If a medicine is not controlling symptoms, its dosage may need to be changed, or you may need to try a new medicine instead.
- Do not change the dosage or stop taking the medicine without talking to your health care provider.
- Take medicine at set times. For example, take it every day at breakfast. Check with your health care provider about the best time to take your medicine.
- Ask your health care provider about side effects and what to do if they occur.
Talk therapy takes place with a trained therapist and in a safe place. It helps you learn ways of managing and reducing your anxiety. Some forms of talk therapy can help you understand what causes your anxiety. This allows you to gain better control over it.
Your health care provider can discuss talk therapy options with you. Then you can decide together if it is right for you.
Other ways to manage your anxiety
Taking medicine and going to talk therapy can get you started on the road to feeling better. It can also help you take care of your body and relationships. To help improve your condition:
- Get enough sleep.
- Eat healthy foods.
- Keep a regular daily schedule.
- Get out of the house every day.
- Exercise every day. Even a little bit of exercise, such as a 15-minute walk, can help.
- Stay away from alcohol and street drugs.
- Talk with friends or family when you feel nervous or frightened.
- Find out about different types of group activities you can join.
When to call the doctor
Call your doctor if you:
- Find it difficult to control your anxiety
- Do not sleep well
- Feel sad or feel like you want to hurt yourself
- Have physical symptoms from your anxiety
National Institute of Mental Health. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): When Worry Gets Out of Control. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/gad-trifold.pdf.Accessed June 27, 2013.National Institute of Mental Health. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD): When Worry Gets Out of Control. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad/gad-trifold.pdf. Accessed June 27, 2013.
Pollack MH, Kinrys G, Delong H, Vasconcelos e Sa, D, Simon NM. The pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 41.
Taylor CT, Pollack MH, LeBeau RT, Simon NM. Anxiety disorders: panic, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, et al., eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2008:chap 32.
Update Date 5/28/2013
Updated by: David B. Merrill, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Medical Center, New York, NY. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.