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Teen Anxiety Disorder
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Teen Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most common anxiety disorder, and affects about 5% of Americans over the course of their lifetimes. It is characterized by the following:

  • A more-or-less constant state of worry and anxiety, which is out of proportion to the level of actual stress or threat in their lives.
  • This state occurs on most days for more than six months despite the lack of an obvious or specific stressor. (It worsens with stress, however.)
  • It is very difficult to control worry. For a clear diagnosis of GAD, the specific worries should be differentiated from those that would define other anxiety disorders, such as fear of panic attacks or appearing in public, nor are they obsessive as in obsessive-compulsive disorder. (It should be noted, however, that over half of those with GAD also have another anxiety disorder or depression.)
  • Patients may experience anxiety physically (such as with gastrointestinal complaints) in addition to, or even in place of, mental worries. (This latter case may be more common in people from non-Western cultures such as those with Asian backgrounds.)
  • People with GAD tend to be unsure of themselves and overly perfectionist and conforming.

Given these conditions, a diagnosis of GAD is then confirmed if three or more of the following symptoms are present (only one for children) on most days for six months:

  • Being on edge or very restless.
  • Feeling tired.
  • Having difficulty concentrating.
  • Being irritable.
  • Having muscle tension.
  • Experiencing sleep disturbances.

Symptoms should cause significant distress and impair normal functioning and not be due to a medical condition or to another mood disorder or psychosis. People with GAD may be likely to experience bouts of depression between episodes of anxiety.

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