It is estimated that 3-4% of the general population suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD is characterized by excessive worry that occurs more often than not for a period of at least 6 months. The person usually has a specific fear that has become generalized to cover many different areas (family, work, school), and the person finds it difficult to control or manage the worry. The anxiety is associated with at least three of the following: restlessness, being easily fatigued difficulty concentrating, irritability, sleep disturbance, and muscle tension. The worry causes impairment in social, occupational, or other areas of functioning.

Anxiety often co-occurs with other disorders such as panic attacks and depression. Many have somatic complaints, such as headaches, cold and clammy hands, dry mouth, and sweating. They may also have an exaggerated, startle response, frequent urination, and diarrhea, as well as trembling, twitching, feeling shaky, or muscle aches. In children, there may be excessive concern about issues such as punctuality, or catastrophic events (such as earthquakes). They may also be perfectionistic, unsure of themselves, and even overly conforming -- requiring frequent reassurance of their performance. The worry becomes so significant that it impacts their school or social functioning.

Adults with the disorder often worry about job responsibilities, finances, the health of family members or even more minor matters. However, the worry is out of proportion to the likelihood of the feared event, and this worry interferes with everyday life. For example, a person may worry so much about the safety of their child that they do not allow their child to participate in normal activities or events. Generalized Anxiety Disorder tends to worsen with stress. Many with Generalized Anxiety Disorder report feeling nervous or anxious most of their lives, but the disorder can first present itself after the age of 20. It is believed that anxiety has a familial association, but there are no specific reports that find a familial relationship with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The disorder does occur more often in females than males. It is caused by a combination of genetics, brain chemistry, life events, and personality factors.

Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder may consist of behavioral interventions, such as counseling. It may also involve medical intervention with psychotropic drugs that can be used in combination with behavioral therapy. With treatment, a person can return to their daily functioning, resolve the key issues that contribute to the anxiety, and interact with the world without excessive worry. The most important factor in treating anxiety is also often the most difficult - taking that first step and asking for help.

Author's Bio: 

Erika Russina is a Licensed and Board Certified Counselor, specializing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Her treatment specialties include depression, anxiety and women's issues. Erika has been in practice for over 13 years, and is featured in Who's Who of American Women. She has also published research in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.