Psychological Services Center

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Most people have concerns or worries about life circumstances. However, sufferers of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) have a pattern of chronic, excessive, and uncontrollable worry that cause clinically significant distress or impairment in important areas of functioning such as work or social relationships.

What are symptoms associated with GAD?

The main symptom of GAD is uncontrollable and excessive worry. Often, these worries can sometimes be about family members, finances, work, and personal illness. In addition to excessive worry, individuals with GAD may often feel restlessness (or feeling on edge or keyed up), irritable, and/or experience muscle tension, fatigue, sleep disturbance, and difficulty concentrating.

What types of treatment are available?

Here are the main treatment options usually considered for panic disorder:

  • Medication. Many people who have GAD can benefit from medications. However, some medications can have side effects and cannot be used by certain people, different people respond differently to different medications, and not all people who can take medications benefit from them. Therefore, making the decision to try medications and deciding which one to try should be done under the care of a physician or psychiatrist.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. A treatment of choice for GAD is a form of exposure plus response prevention (EPRP), which involves prolonged exposure to frightening images that may or may not be related to the topics of worry. This is believed to be effective because worry is seen as an escape behavior that serves to distract the individual from frightening images. By prolonging exposure to these images the sufferer is ‘ breaking ' the escape pattern. Some other common treatments for GAD are cognitive restructuring, targeting the fear of negative evaluation, training in coping skills, such as relaxation, self talk, distraction strategies, and problem solving skills. Learning to be “ in the moment, ” and addressing the secondary gains associated with worry and dysfunction can be helpful components of treatment as well.
  • Other Psychological Therapies. There are many different types of psychological therapies, such as Interpersonal, Family, and Supportive. Many of these therapies were not developed specifically for anxiety disorders, but for other reasons (such as reducing depression, improving relationships or for personal growth). Although these other therapies are generally not helpful for the base anxiety, they may be useful for reaching other goals (such as reducing depression or improving relationships), which may ultimately help maintain gains in anxiety treatment. These services are not usually provided in the ADS. In the event that you may wish to obtain such therapies, the ADS can provide referrals for you. Additionally, these services may be obtained from the Psychological Services Center (which houses the ADS).