What is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

What is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

Reviewed by:
Austin Lin, MD
Staff Psychiatrist
at Talkiatry
July 8, 2021

Generalized anxiety disorder (also known as GAD, or chronic anxiety neurosis) causes people to worry uncontrollably about everyday events and situations at a level that is out of proportion to their severity. 

When faced with stressful situations, we are likely to feel anxious or worried. However, if you have extreme anxiety or worries that negatively impact your life, we recommend seeking treatment.

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder

As outlined in the DSM-5, GAD is characterized by having trouble controlling worry on most days over a six-month period and displaying three or more of the following symptoms:

  • Persistent anxiety or worry about many things that are out of proportion to the impact of the events 
  • Overanalyzing plans and potential outcomes for worst-case scenarios
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren't
  • Difficulty coping with uncertainty
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Irritability
  • Nervousness, or easy to startle

Most importantly, these symptoms negatively impact functioning in personal, social, or occupational settings. GAD symptoms can overlap with other mood and anxiety disorders, and in many cases, can occur along with other disorders. If you are experiencing these symptoms, we strongly recommend obtaining an official diagnosis from a psychiatrist who can provide specialized treatment based on your diagnosis. 

Related article: What is climate anxiety?

Treatment of generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder may occur in children or adults. Treatment can be a long-term process for many people because the topic of worries often changes over time. However, successful treatment helps reduce anxiety by enhancing mental and physical wellbeing. It also increases engagement with people, places, and situations that previously caused anxiety. Medication and psychotherapy are often used together to treat or improve the symptoms of this condition.

Medication management

At Talkiatry, our psychiatrists focus on long-term success in GAD treatment. Therefore, anti-anxiety medications that provide temporary relief are only recommended as a short-term measure to alleviate symptoms when starting the treatment process. We instead utilize medications that have demonstrated long-term success in treating GAD symptoms, including SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclic antidepressants. 

If you're interested in learning about the difference between anxiety and depression, check out: anxiety vs. depression: What's the difference?

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is often emphasized in treating anxiety disorders such as GAD. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of psychotherapy that is commonly used to treat GAD. It is usually a short-term, structured treatment that focuses on the interplay between the conscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that perpetuate anxiety. Psychotherapy helps patients recognize and control their anxious thoughts while changing their behavior and thinking. Broad topics discussed during therapy sessions include in-depth analysis of the anxious thoughts, learning coping skills, relaxation techniques, imagined exposure to worries, modification of behaviors that have resulted from the worries, and problem-solving.

Take the next step with Talkiatry

Talkiatry offers outpatient mental health services for people living with GAD, including diagnoses, psychotherapy, and medication management.

Here at Talkiatry, we believe in providing accessible, affordable mental health-management solutions, which is why we provide personalized in-network healthcare services that are focused on helping you feel better, faster. We also offer flexible telemedicine and in-office appointment options to match our therapeutic and modern approach to psychiatric care.

If you believe you have GAD, we highly recommend you start by taking our free and easy assessment to receive a preliminary diagnosis. This assessment will also match you with one of our psychiatrists who can assist you with managing and treating your GAD. 

Take the assessment today to get started.

Talkiatry is a mental health practice, and our clinicians review everything we write. However, articles are never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you think you may need mental health help, talk to a psychiatrist. If you or someone you know may be in danger, call 911 or the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 right away.

Dr. Austin Lin is a double board-certified adult and addiction psychiatrist who has been in practice for over 9 years. At the center of Dr. Lin’s clinical approach is a strong emphasis on establishing trust and using a collaborative approach to help patients develop an individualized and cohesive plan so that they are able to achieve their goals.

Dr. Lin's practice focuses on medication management. Typically, he offers this in conjunction with supportive therapy, motivational interviewing, and/or cognitive behavioral therapy in 30-minute follow-up visits. Occasionally, Dr. Lin may recommend that additional therapy is needed and ask that you bring a therapist into your care team in order to provide the best outcome.

Dr. Lin received his medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine. He went on to complete his residency in psychiatry at Harvard South Shore, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School, where he served as Chief Resident and earned his 360° Professionalism award. He then had additional training in Addiction Psychiatry through his fellowship at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. After completing training, Dr. Lin has worked as an Addiction Psychiatrist and Director of Adult Services in the Trauma and Resilience Center (TRC) at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). He specialized in treating patients with a history of depression, anxiety, trauma, and substance use disorders.

Dr. Lin has held an academic appointment at UTHealth, and he has spent his professional career supervising and teaching medical students and psychiatry residents.



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