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

- A more-or-less constant state of worry and anxiety, which is out of proportion to the level of actual stress or threat in one's life.

- The anxiety occurs on most days during a period of more than 6 months despite the lack of an obvious or specific stressor. (It worsens with stress, however.)

- Patients with GAD may experience physical symptoms (such as gastrointestinal complaints) in addition to, or even in place of, mental worries.

- People with GAD tend to be unsure of themselves, overly perfectionist, and conforming.

Given these conditions, a diagnosis of GAD is confirmed if three or more of the following symptoms are present (only one for children) on most days for 6 months:

- Being on edge or very restless
- Feeling tired
- Having difficulty with concentration
- Being irritable
- Having muscle tension
- Experiencing disturbed sleep

Symptoms can cause significant distress and impair normal functioning. To be classified as GAD, they should not be due to a medical condition, another mood disorder, or psychosis. GAD rarely occurs by itself. It typically occurs along with another type of anxiety disorder, depression, or substance abuse.

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