The essential feature of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is anxiety, which is generalized and persistent but not restricted to, or even strongly predominating in, any particular environmental circumstances (i.e. it is "free-floating"). Though everyone experiences occasional anxiety as a normal reaction to threatening, dangerous, uncertain, or important situations, some people feel anxious much of the time and may, in fact, suffer from GAD.
Psychiatric medicine classifies anxiety as normal or pathological. Normal anxiety can enhance some people’s function, motivation, and productivity, such as in the case of a person who works well under pressure. People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience pathological anxiety, which is excessive, chronic, and typically interferes with their ability to function in normal daily activities. Approximately 2 to 4 percent of the population suffers from GAD; it is therefore one of the more common psychiatric disorders.
The characteristic feature of GAD is that anxiety and worry is excessive and often feels uncontrollable. The worry often focuses on finances, job responsibilities, health of family members, or other routine life circumstances. Fears that the sufferer or a relative will shortly become ill or have an accident are often expressed, together with a variety of other worries and forebodings. In addition to chronic worry, GAD symptoms often include feelings of restlessness or edginess, fatigue, poor concentration, irritable mood, muscle tension, lightheadedness, and poor sleep. This disorder is more common in women, and it is often related to chronic environmental stress. Its course is variable but tends to be fluctuating and chronic.