Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by six months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst; they worry excessively about money, health, family, or work, even when there are no signs of trouble. They are unable to relax and often suffer from insomnia and an inability to concentrate. Many people with GAD also have physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headaches, irritability, or hot flashes.
Approximately 6.8 million American adults develop GAD during the course of a given year. It most often strikes people in childhood or adolescence, but can begin in adulthood, too. It affects women more often than men. Some research suggests that GAD may run in families, and it may also worsen during stressful times.