by Scholten A

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing GAD. Talk to your doctor about your risk factors.

Risk factors for developing GAD include:


Women are diagnosed with GAD twice as often as men. It may be tied to hormones, cultural expectations, and more willingness to visit doctors and talk about their anxiety.

Family History

Anxiety disorders may run in families. The risk of GAD may be higher if there is a family history of anxiety or mood disorders.

Substance Abuse

Smoking, alcohol, and drug use can increase the risk of GAD.

Medical Conditions

People with chronic illnesses have a greater risk of GAD.

History of Stressful Life Events

GAD may be more likely in those with history of:

  • Traumatic event—physical or emotional
  • Poor or oppressed
  • Childhood abuse or neglect; exposure to parental abuse or drug use or physical discipline
  • Divorce, separation, or being widowed
  • Lower education level


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DeMartini J, Patel G, Fancher TL. Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Ann Intern Med. 2019 Apr 2;170(7):ITC49-ITC64

Locke AB, Kirst N, Shultz CG. Diagnosis and management of generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder in adults. Am Fam Physician. 2015 May 1;91(9):617-24

11/6/2014 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance : Mars B, Heron J, et al. Clinical and social outcomes of adolescent self harm: population based birth cohort study. BMJ. 2014;349:g5954.

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