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Anxiety is a normal, sometimes even healthy, part of life— and we all experience it at one time or another.

For others, however, anxiety can become chronic and problematic, interfering with their overall being.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is excessive, prolonged anxiety about everyday tasks and activities.

Those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder suffer from persistent worry that cannot be easily controlled and doesn’t seem to have a particular source. People with an anxiety disorder may be overly concerned with things like health, family, work, or finances. The reasons for their anxiety may shift over time.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Excessive worry that occurs every day for more than six months may be a sign of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Other symptoms include:

  • Difficulty controlling feelings of anxiety

  • Irritability

  • Becoming easily fatigued

  • Headaches

  • Muscle tension

  • Heart palpitations

RELATED: How Stress Affects Your Brain

How Generalized Anxiety Disorder Is Diagnosed

The exact cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder isn’t known, but it might be a combination of genetics, environment, and life experiences.

The condition can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, who will discuss your symptoms and family history. Your counselor may ask a few questions about your anxiety, such as:

  • Is it present during most days?

  • Has it been present for more than six months?

  • Is it interfering with your life?

  • Is it upsetting you?

Is It Anxiety or Depression?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder affects more than 6.8 million Americans, with women being twice as likely to be affected by the condition than men. It is one of the most common forms of mental illness in the United States.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and depression are separate conditions but can share a few similar symptoms, including nervousness and irritability. Although it’s common for these disorders to coincide with one another, it is important to note that they are distinct conditions.

RELATED: Understanding Depression: Causes, Symptoms, and Helpful Resources

Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Counseling, psychotherapy, and medication are the most common treatment options for anxiety disorder. Your mental health professional can help find the right combination of treatment for you.

Psychotherapy may include behavioral therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

  • Behavioral therapy: You will work with a therapist to identify what areas of your life are causing your anxiety and help you develop mechanisms to handle those areas.

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: You will work with a therapist to learn how to change your pattern of thinking in the areas of your life that are causing you anxiety.

It’s important to know that those with Generalized Anxiety Disorder cannot prevent their condition, but they can manage their symptoms. Talk to your doctor if you believe you are suffering from excessive anxiety.

Visit the website for Behavioral and Mental Health Services at UPMC for more information.

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