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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder - Topic Overview

How is generalized anxiety disorder diagnosed?

To find out if you have this problem, your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and how long you have had them. Your doctor will also do a physical exam, ask questions about your medical history, and ask questions about medicines you are taking. This information helps your doctor find out whether you have any other condition.

To be diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, you must have more worry and stress than normal. You must feel worried and stressed about many things almost every day. And these feelings must last for at least 6 months. You will also have some physical symptoms. The worry, stress, and physical symptoms might make it hard for you to do normal activities such as going to work every day or doing grocery shopping.

If you think you may have an anxiety disorder, fill out a form(What is a PDF document?) to check your symptoms.

How is it treated?

Generalized anxiety disorder is treated with medicines and/or therapy.

The two kinds of therapy that are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder are called applied relaxation therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. In applied relaxation therapy, your therapist might ask you to imagine a calming situation to help you relax. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, your therapist will help you learn how to recognize and replace thoughts that make you feel stressed and worried.

Some of the medicines that are used to treat generalized anxiety disorder are:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluoxetine and sertraline, and serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), such as duloxetine and venlafaxine. These are the most common medicine types to treat generalized anxiety disorder. These medicines usually take several weeks to a few months to work well.
  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam or diazepam.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs), such as imipramine.
  • Buspirone, which is often used with other medicines to treat generalized anxiety disorder.
  • Trifluoperazine, an antipsychotic medicine.

Some medicines work better for some people than for others. Be sure to talk with your doctor about how the medicine is working for you. Sometimes you might need to try more than one type of medicine before you find one that works best for you.

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