Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosing Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Your Mercy doctor or behavioral health professional may do the following to diagnose GAD.

  • Perform a physical exam
  • Review your medical history and symptoms
  • Order lab work or other tests

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

Anxiety doesn’t just affect your state of mind – you’ll notice physical symptoms. The body responds to anxiety by releasing cortisol and other stress hormones, which can cause nervousness, dizziness, sweating, heart palpitations, trouble concentrating, rashes and more. Beyond the physical effects of GAD, it can be lonely and isolating. GAD can be treated with medication, therapy and alternative therapies – or a combination of these treatment methods.

Therapy or Counseling

A therapist works with you in counseling sessions to discuss ways to manage your anxiety. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches you skills to manage anxiety and is especially effective for GAD. CBT can be done individually or in a group of people with similar issues.


Anxiety can be treated with or without medication. Your Mercy doctor or behavioral health professional will discuss your options, including the benefits and risks. Medications often used to treat GAD include:

  • Antidepressants – These medications increase levels of the chemicals serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain, which helps improve your mood.
  • Buspirone – This anti-anxiety medication alters the chemical messages your nerves receive, which can reduce irritability, low energy and other symptoms. It can take several weeks before you start to feel better on buspirone.
  • Benzodiazepines – These medications slow down the nervous system, helping you feel less anxious and get more sleep. But they also make you feel drowsy, may require higher doses over time, and can be addictive.

Integrative Medicine

Some people with GAD also benefit from healing therapies used alongside traditional medical care, known as complementary or integrative therapies. Mercy's integrative medicine department focuses on your emotional and spiritual well-being through a variety of therapies. Meditation is especially effective for GAD by helping you clear your mind, calm yourself and feel more at peace.

Pediatric Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treatment

GAD in children and adolescents is treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy, medication or a combination of both. Antidepressants that increase serotonin levels are commonly used to treat GAD in children. If you’re concerned about your child’s anxiety, ask your pediatrician for a referral to a Mercy behavioral health professional. Working with a care team, you can help your child enjoy a healthier and more active life.

Living with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

While not a substitute for medical care, other ways to help you cope include relaxation techniques, changing negative thoughts and making positive changes to reduce stress. It’s also important to be socially engaged and take time for healthy self-care. Since drugs and alcohol can contribute to or worsen anxiety, avoiding them will help you enjoy a better quality of life.

GAD Resources

Find a Behavioral Health Specialist

Mercy offers inpatient and outpatient locations for all mental health conditions including generalized anxiety disorder, across all communities.

Find a behavioral health specialist near you.