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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

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Mental Disorders


General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) strikes people worldwide, including children, with vague, intense anxiety and panic.



When you feel anxious, your body releases hormones that prepare you to react to a threat. This is called the fight-or-flight response. When anxiety gets out of control, this response can occur almost continuously, even at times when you seem calm. Doctors and researchers don't fully understand why this happens.

Although the cause of GAD is unknown, certain factors may contribute to the disorder:

  • Specific medical conditions. Certain disorders, such as an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism), can produce anxiety, among other signs and symptoms.

  • Coping with illness. Having a serious physical illness, such as cancer, can make you anxious. Worrying about the implications of your diagnosis and possible treatment can become excessive and overwhelming.

  • Stress. A buildup of stressful life situations may trigger excessive anxiety. For example, having a physical illness, along with the stress of missing work or losing pay, may combine to cause GAD.

  • Personality. People with some personality types are more prone to anxiety disorders. People with unmet psychological needs, such as having a close relationship that isn't fulfilling, may feel less secure and be more at risk of GAD. In addition, personality disorders, such as borderline personality disorder, can also bring about GAD.

  • Heredity. Some research suggests that GAD may run in families.

Risk factors

Certain factors may increase your risk of GAD. These include:

  • A buildup of stress

  • A serious or prolonged physical illness

  • A personality type or disorder that is more prone to anxiety

  • An anxiety disorder in your family

GAD and other anxiety disorders occur more frequently in people with chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

When to seek medical advice

If you have difficulty controlling your worries, or if anxiety interferes with your daily life, see your doctor.

Generalized anxiety disorder > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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