Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment Chicago

anxiety depression treatment center chicagoGeneralized Anxiety Disorder Explored

By: John D. Moore, PhD

Looking for Generalized Anxiety Disorder treatment in Chicago? If so you are not alone. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders among clients who come to our Chicago offices for counseling and therapy. The essential clinical feature of GAD is excessive worry – but there’s so much more to this disorder than that. If left unchecked, GAD can cause many personal and professional problems, including difficulty forming and maintaining relationships.

Current estimates peg the number of people with generalized anxiety disorder somewhere around 7 million people. It is believed, however, that many cases of GAD go unreported due to negative stigmas attached to mental health matters.

One of the common myths connected to GAD is that a person can somehow “grow out of it”. That is simply not true. The reality is that people with GAD are typically born with this disorder and it does not “go away” like the common cold. Like other mental health issues, including major depressive disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and ADHD, GAD is part of a person’s core essential psychological makeup.

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GAD = Excessive Worry

This brief article will provide some of the clinical features of generalized anxiety disorder and explore how talk-therapy and medications can help you better manage a condition that is frequently misunderstood and widely not discussed.

Along the way, we will examine what causes GAD, debunk GAD myths, discuss a GAD diagnosis and assess medications for treatment. Several famous celebrities who live with anxiety disorders are also listed to help universalize your journey. A GAD poll, book and resources are offered at the end for interaction and insight purposes.

Are you ready to learn more about Generalized Anxiety Disorder? Let’s jump right in!

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

At its core, generalized anxiety disorder is a mental health issue that causes a person to excessively worry about different things going on in their life. These worries are often irrational in nature and cause uncomfortable emotional tension and stress.

Some of the common areas of worry for GAD sufferers include but are not limited to:

  • Money
  • Health
  • Work
  • School
  • Family
  • Safety

If you have GAD, it is best to think of this disorder as cyclical in nature; meaning that you will likely “cycle” through different areas of worry throughout the day or week. Again, the key features to pay attention to are “excessive worry” and “irrational fears”.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There are a number of clinical features (symptoms) of GAD that touch upon the psychological and physical realms. The most common of these typically include:

  • Excessive irrational worry
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Edginess
  • Irritability
  • Sweating
  • Twitching
  • Hot flashes
  • Shortness of breath

generlaized anxiety disorder symptoms

Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Intensity

Generally speaking, GAD is classified into two types. Bear in mind that a person can move between these two types over the course of time, depending on what is happening in their life situationally.


If you are struggling with a mild case of GAD, you likely are able to attend to most activities of daily living. In other words, you are able to work, go to the store, get a reasonable amount of sleep at night and so forth.


If you are struggling with a severe case of GAD, the ability to focus on many activities can present extreme difficulty. Getting meaningful sleep will likely be problematic and your body will likely feel full of tension. Irritability and edginess may also be present. If the intensity of your GAD is strong, you may have problems being able to work. If symptoms persist for long periods of time, some people become depressed.

What Causes GAD?

The exact causes for GAD remain elusive to researchers. We do know, however, that GAD does run in families. While genetics certainly is thought of as a causal factor for the onset of GAD, there is some research to suggest that GAD’s presence may also be influenced by environmental factors.

Additionally, genetics, biochemistry and a person’s psychological profile are all factored into the mix when considering root causes of GAD. Some research seems to indicate that the structure of the brain may somehow be related to this disorder.

generalized anxiety disorder brain scan
Brain Scan Imaging Credit: NYT

GAD Myths

There are a number of myths that exist about generalized anxiety disorder. Much of the misinformation stems from a place of ignorance, coupled with old wives tales being passed on from person to person.

The more common GAD myths include:

  • GAD is not really a disorder. It’s just over-worrying (not true)
  • People with GAD can just “stop” worrying if they want (not true)
  • Avoiding anxiety provoking situations prevents GAD (not true)
  • GAD can be managed by “willing it away” (not true).

Bear in mind that generalized anxiety disorder is a recognized mental health issue by the American Psychiatric Association and is listed as such its manual of mental health disorders. GAD is considered an Axis I disorder, meaning it is part of the person’s psychological makeup.

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Diagnosis of GAD

Generalized anxiety disorder may be diagnosed after your health care provider rules out other potential causes for GAD symptoms. Generally speaking, if you have a history of excessive worry over a variety of topics for a period of six months or more and the symptoms cannot be attributed to another mental health issue or medical cause (including meds or substance abuse), you may qualify for a GAD diagnosis.

FYI: Arriving at a GAD diagnosis is a multi-prong process. You should expect that your health care provider will ask a lot of questions in order to gain insight into your full medical history and accompanying symptoms. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America have made available an excellent GAD Assessment for you to take online and then later show to your doctor.

Treatment for GAD

There are a number of treatments available for generalized anxiety disorder. These include psychotherapy and certain types of medications. Let’s take a closer look at some of these together.


Research has shown that certain types of therapy can greatly benefit you if you are living with GAD. These anxiety focused therapies include:

Many people have discovered that by working with a trained therapist, they are better able to manage their symptoms of GAD and prevent the onset of the severe form mentioned earlier. One of the great things about counseling is that you have a safe, affirming and confidential place to share all that you are feeling while learning how to integrate GAD into your life. If you are looking for Generalized Anxiety Treatment Chicago, this is an approach we take.

Some of our counselors do couples therapy in cases where one partner’s GAD is impacting the relationship. This helps to establish boundaries and in many ways prevent magnification, a common cognitive distortion for those who live with GAD.

If you are thinking of getting married, pre-marriage counseling can help both parties gain a better understanding of GAD and how it can pop up in the marriage. Many people find that by being open and transparent about their mental health issues, they are able to enjoy a more meaningful, healthier relationship.


Certain drugs are available for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. These medications must be prescribed by your physician or psychiatrist. It is important to be aware of potential side effects of mood altering drugs (aka: SSRI’s). Be sure to ask your health care provider questions.

Common GAD medications include:

  • Cymbalta
  • Lexapro
  • Paxil
  • Effexor

In some cases, doctors will prescribe anti-histamines to treat GAD. Examples include hydroxyzine and beta blockers like propranolol. Usually, these types of meds are prescribed for milder forms of the disorder. It just depends on your situation what the approach you and your doctor think will work best.

Talk Therapy/Meds

The overwhelming research suggests that a combination of both approaches, meaning talk-therapy and medications yields the best result for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder. It is important to work with a therapist who is knowledgeable about anxiety disorders and treatment approaches.

GAD Video

Below is a short video produced by Web-I-Health that touches upon more of the symptoms and treatment options related to GAD. If you are looking for a quick reference about this disorder, be sure to check out the presentation below.



Famous People and Celebs with anxiety disorders

There are a number of famous people, including Hollywood celebrities and sports players, who live with various anxiety disorders, including GAD. These include folks like:

  • Leann Rimes
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Jonny Depp
  • Kate Moss
  • Howie Mandel
  • David Beckham
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Harrison Ford
  • Fred Durst
  • Kim Basinger
  • Emma Stone
  • Adele
  • John Mayer
  • Heather Locklear

GAD Poll


About the GAD poll

The poll offered here is not scientific in nature but does provide an opportunity for you to compare your experiences of GAD against others who have already voted. Keep in mind that if you have GAD, your symptoms will likely change over the course of time.

GAD Book

If you are looking for effective strategies for better managing GAD or if you just want more insight into this anxiety disorder, a great book to consider is The Anxiety and Worry Workbook by Clark and Beck. Inside you will find page after page of information about GAD with concrete tools that you can use to help you create positive change.  


Final Thoughts

If you or someone you love has Generalized Anxiety Disorder, please know there is nothing to be ashamed of. This particular mental health issue is shared by many people around the globe and is more common than you might think. The good news is that effective treatment options are available. We hope you found the information and material listed here useful. Thank you for visiting the Chicago therapist website of 2nd Story Counseling! Please Like us on Facebook, Circle us on Google+ and share on Twitter!

GAD Resources

National Institutes for Mental HealthUniversity of Chicago GAD Page  


    • Hi, Jim!

      Thanks for the comment. We also wondered about this but apparently, the first line of medications that is usually tried are the SSRI’s. I might change the word out from psychotropics to SSRI’s to avoid any confusion. Glad you came by!

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