Treatment Options and Treatment Barriers for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States. According to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Services, “Anxiety disorders are the most prevalent category of mental health disorders and impact nearly 30% of adults in the United States over the course of their lifetime.” Moreover, what mental health professionals and doctors proscribe to patients remains critical to successful patient outcomes.

A 2017 article published in the journal Wiley, explores some of the symptoms of GAD: “Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by prominent symptoms of pathological worry, which relates to various aspects of everyday life,” the authors write. Symptoms of GAD include:

• muscle tension
• restlessness
• irritability
• fatigue
• difficulties with concentration
• sleep disturbance

As noted above, although the prevalence for GAD is 30% in the United States, research indicates that the disorder is present in about 5% of the general population. In other words, GAD is a mental health disorder that impacts many individuals. “Left untreated,” the authors of the Wiley study note, “GAD is associated with significant distress, worsened quality of life, and more medical problems, as well as first onset of other anxiety, mood, and substance use disorders.”

Treatments for GAD vary.

“Most treatment guidelines for anxiety disorders recommend selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and pregabalin as the first‐line drug treatment for GAD,” the authors write. They continue: “According to these guidelines, benzodiazepines are not recommended as first‐line treatment for GAD, mainly because of dependence associated with their long‐term use. However, benzodiazepines can be used for a limited time under certain circumstances . . .”

Additionally, individuals may also face barriers to treatment. In Psychological Services, the authors point out that “In order to overcome barriers to treatment and encourage treatment utilization, it is important to systematically understand these barriers and then target them in approaches to care.”

In some instances, “worry about the uncertainty of what treatment might entail and fear of negative evaluation may be components of the disorders themselves that impede treatment utilization. Indeed, one of the largest studies examining barriers to treatment among adults with social anxiety found that fear of what others might say or think was among the top barriers to seeking treatment, which is consistent with other studies that have documented the reluctance of individuals with anxiety to seek treatment,” the authors write.

Finally, treatments to GAD and barriers to care require an ongoing conversation. What remains important is that individuals who have GAD can be referred for several treatment options, which may be effective. If you think you have undiagnosed GAD, consult with your therapist or a mental health professional about treatment options.


Goetter, E. M., Frumkin, M. R., Palitz, S. A., Swee, M. B., Baker, A. W., Bui, E., & Simon, N. M. (2018, August 2). Barriers to Mental Health Treatment Among Individuals With Social Anxiety Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Psychological Services. Advance online publication.

Latas M, Trajković G, Bonevski D, et al. Psychiatrists’ treatment preferences for generalized anxiety disorder. Hum Psychopharmacol Clin Exp. 2018;33:e2643.

Brooke Lamberti

Brooke Lamberti is a content writer based out of Scranton, Pennsylvania. She received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Marywood University, and has prior career experience working in social work and domestic violence advocacy. She has a passion for writing and helping others.