Generalized Anxiety Disorder | Overview


What is anxiety?

Anxiety is a word that describes feelings of worry, nervousness, fear, apprehension, concern or restlessness. Normal feelings of anxiety often serve as an "alarm system," alerting you to danger. For example, imagine coming home and finding a burglar in your living room. Your heart beats fast. Your palms get sweaty. Your mind races. In this situation, anxiety can provide an extra spark to help you get out of danger. In more normal but busy situations, anxiety can give you the energy to get things done.

But sometimes anxiety can be out of control, giving you a sense of dread and fear for no apparent reason. This kind of anxiety can disrupt your life.

Are there different types of anxiety?

Yes. Anxiety can be a general feeling of worry, a sudden attack of panicky feelings, or a fear of a certain situation or object.

What is generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder is ongoing anxiety that isn't related to a particular event or situation, or is out of proportion to what you would expect. For instance, a person who has generalized anxiety disorder may constantly worry about a child who is perfectly healthy.

About 4 million adults in the United States have GAD. Women are more likely to have it than men. It usually begins to affect people when they are in their early 20s.


Generalized Anxiety Disorder by MF Gliatto, M.D. (American Family Physician October 01, 2000,

Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 03/14
Created: 01/96