Generalized Anxiety Disorder | Treatment


How is GAD treated?

People who have GAD must learn ways to cope with anxiety and worry. Talk to your family doctor if you think you have an anxiety disorder. He or she can help you form a plan to develop skills to cope with your anxiety. You'll probably need some counseling to help you figure out what's making you so tense. Also, you may need to take some medicine to help you feel less anxious. Your doctor can recommend the treatment that is right for you. The following are some tips on coping with anxiety:

Control your worry. Choose a place and time to do your worrying. Make it the same place and time every day. Spend 30 minutes thinking about your concerns and what you can do about them. Try not to dwell on what "might" happen. Focus more on what's really happening. Then let go of the worry and go on with your day.

Learn ways to relax. These may include muscle relaxation, yoga, or deep breathing.

Steps to deep breathing

  1. Lie down on a flat surface.
  2. Place one hand on your stomach, just above your navel. Place the other hand on your chest.
  3. Breathe in slowly and try to make your stomach rise a little.
  4. Hold your breath for a second.
  5. Breathe out slowly and let your stomach go back down.

Muscle relaxation is simple. Start by choosing a muscle and holding it tight for a few seconds. Then relax the muscle. Do this with all of your muscles, one part of your body at a time. Try starting with your feet muscles and working your way up your body.

Exercise regularly. People who have anxiety often quit exercising. But exercise can give you a sense of well being and help decrease feelings of anxiety.

Get plenty of sleep. Sleep rests your brain as well as your body, and can improve your general sense of wellbeing as well as your mood.

Avoid alcohol and drug abuse. It may seem that alcohol or drugs relax you. But in the long run they make anxiety worse and cause more problems.

Avoid caffeine. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Caffeine may increase your sense of anxiety because it stimulates your nervous system. Also avoid over-the-counter diet pills, and cough and cold medicines that contain a decongestant.

Confront the things that have made you anxious in the past. Begin by just picturing yourself confronting these things. By doing this, you can get used to the idea of confronting the things that make you anxious before you actually do it. After you feel more comfortable picturing yourself confronting these things, you can begin to actually face them.

If you feel yourself getting anxious, practice a relaxation technique or focus on a simple task, such as counting backward from 100 to 0.

Although feelings of anxiety are scary, they won't hurt you. Label the level of your fear from 0 to 10 and keep track as it goes up and down. Notice that it doesn't stay at a very high level for more than a few seconds. When the fear comes, accept it. Wait and give it time to pass without running away from it.

Use medicine if it helps. Your doctor may give you medicine to help reduce your anxiety while you learn new ways to respond to the things that make you anxious. Many types of medicine are available. Your doctor will decide which medicine is right for you.

Talk about your anxiety with your doctor. Your doctor can help you make a plan to cope with anxiety. Counseling can help you learn to express your needs and wants so you can feel more in control and hold in less of your anger and anxiety.

The most important thing is to take action. Action can help you gain a sense of control over your anxiety.

People who have GAD can get better. If you take medicine for generalized anxiety disorder, you may be able to stop taking it at some point in the future. Your doctor will tell you if it's OK to stop taking your medicine.


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