Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When You Can’t Control Worry


Anxiety is sometimes a normal part of life. We all worry about things like health problems, money, or family problems. However, people with generalized anxiety disorder worry extremely or feel very nervous about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry. It is not easy for people with generalized anxiety disorder to control their anxiety and stay focused on daily activities.

What are the signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder develops slowly, and usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood. People with this disorder can:

Worrying too much about everyday things
Having trouble controlling your worries or feelings of nervousness
Be aware that they care much more than they should
Feeling restless or having trouble relaxing
Having trouble concentrating
Be easily surprised
Having trouble sleeping or staying asleep
Feeling tired all the time
Have unexplained headaches, muscle or stomach aches or discomfort
Have difficulty swallowing
Have tremors or tics (nervous movements)
Feeling irritable or nervous
Sweating a lot, feeling dizzy or short of breath
Needing to go to the bathroom often

How is generalized anxiety disorder treated?

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms first. Your doctor should examine you and take your medical history to make sure your symptoms are not caused by some unrelated physical problem. Your doctor may recommend that you see a mental health specialist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist.

Generalized anxiety disorder is usually treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both. Ask your doctor about the best treatment for you.


A type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy is especially helpful in treating generalized anxiety disorder. It teaches the person different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to different situations to help them feel less


Doctors can also prescribe medications that help treat generalized anxiety disorder. Your doctor will work with you to find the best medicine and dosage for you. There are different types of medications that can be effective in treating this disorder:

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
Other serotonergic medications

Doctors commonly use SSRIs and SNRIs to treat depression, but they are also helpful for symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. They can take several weeks to start working. These medications can also have side effects, such as headaches, nausea, or trouble sleeping. These side effects are not usually serious for most people, especially if you start with a low dose and gradually increase it.


Benzodiazepines, which are sedatives, can also be used to manage severe forms of generalized anxiety disorder. These medications are powerfully effective in rapidly reducing anxiety, but can cause tolerance and dependence if used continuously. Therefore, your doctor will only prescribe them for short periods of time if necessary.

Do not stop treatment too quickly. Both psychotherapy and medication can take some time to achieve results. A healthy lifestyle can also help fight anxiety. Make sure you get enough sleep and exercise, eat a healthy diet, and turn to trusted family and friends for support.


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