Generalized Anxiety Disorder (pathological worry)

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by excessive worry about everyday concerns (e.g., finances, work, school, relationships, and family). While the worry may manifest in various ways, usually the themes can be distilled into a few key fears of specific negative outcomes, such as becoming homeless or being alone forever.

Much like people with other anxiety disorders, individuals with GAD engage in ritualistic, safety-seeking, and avoidance behaviors. They may avoid situations that could lead to a negative outcome, put off making decisions, over-analyze and prepare for situations that could lead to a negative outcome, and seek out excessive reassurance from others.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the psychological treatment of choice for GAD. It consists of psycho-education, exposure exercises, cognitive restructuring, behavior modification, relaxation training, and more. Often times, worry can cause sleep disturbances, such as insomnia. As a result, CBT techniques for sleep hygiene are provided as needed.

Everyone experiences worry, but it becomes a problem when it interferes with functioning or becomes distressing. Even then, many with GAD are reluctant to decrease worry through treatment, because worry is often seen as adaptive. Worry can be helpful in small doses, but when it interferes with life or causes significant distress, it paradoxically makes those with GAD less functional. CBT can help you find alternative copings strategies that do not sacrifice your adaptability and may even enhance it.