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Care for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental illness that often causes people to worry or fear many different situations. Their anxiety seems out of control and interferes with their daily activities.

Proper treatment can often improve GAD. You and your doctor should create a treatment plan, which may include talk therapy (psychotherapy), medication, or both.

Taking medication

Your doctor may prescribe one or more medications, including:

An antidepressant that can help with anxiety and depression. This type of medication may take weeks or months to work. It is a safe medium- to long-term treatment for GAD.

A benzodiazepine that works more quickly than an antidepressant to control anxiety. However, sometimes these drugs can become less effective over time and become habit-forming. Your doctor may prescribe a dosage of a drug to relieve your anxiety while you wait for the antidepressant to take effect. When taking medication for GAD:

Keep your doctor informed of your symptoms. If a medication is not controlling your symptoms, you may need to change your dose or try a new medication instead.

Do not change the dose or stop taking the medicine without talking to your doctor.

Take the medicine at set times. For example, take it every day with breakfast. Check with your provider about the best time to take your medicine.

Ask your doctor about side effects and what to do if they occur.


Psychotherapy is done by a qualified therapist. It helps you learn ways to manage and reduce your anxiety. Some forms of psychotherapy can help you understand what is causing your anxiety. This gives you more control over it.

Many types of psychotherapy can be helpful in treating GAD. One common and effective form of psychotherapy is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT can help you understand the relationship between your thoughts, your behavior, and your symptoms. CBT often requires a set number of visits. During CBT you can learn to:

Understand and manage distorted beliefs about stressors, such as other people’s behavior or life events.

Recognize and replace panic-provoking thoughts to gain more control.

Manage stress and relax when symptoms occur.

Don’t think that minor problems will turn into major problems.

Your provider can talk with you about psychotherapy options. Later, you can decide together if this is the right option for you.

Other ways to manage your anxiety

Taking medication and going to therapy can help you feel better. Taking care of your body and your relationships can help improve your condition. Here are some helpful tips:

Get enough sleep.

Eat healthy food. Keep a regular daily routine.

Get out of the house every day.

You need to exercise every day. Even a little exercise, such as a 15-minute walk, can help.

Stay away from alcohol and illegal drugs. Tell your family or friends if you are nervous or anxious.

Find out about the different types of group activities you can participate in.

When to contact a health care provider

Call your provider if:

You have trouble controlling your fear.

You do not sleep well.

You feel sad or want to hurt yourself.

You have physical symptoms of anxiety.

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