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

It is possible to develop 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. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk factors for developing GAD include:

Women are diagnosed with GAD twice as often as men. Reasons for this include hormonal factors, cultural expectations, and more willingness to visit doctors and talk about their anxiety.

Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. This may be due to family dynamics, such as the failure to learn effective coping skills, overprotective behaviors, abuse, and violence.

Approximately one-fourth of first-degree relatives will be affected.

Nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine abuse can increase the risk of GAD.

Patients with chronic illnesses have a greater risk of GAD.

Members of poor minority groups, particularly immigrants, tend to be at greater risk for developing GAD. This may be due to problems adjusting to a new culture, feelings of inferiority, alienation, and loss of strong family ties.

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs with depression, particularly major depression or chronic mild depression. Adolescents with depression seem particularly at risk for developing GAD in adulthood.

Two studies in 2000 found that anxiety rates among children and adolescents had increased significantly since the 1950s. Both studies suggested that anxiety was related to lack of social connections and a sense of increased environmental threat.

The initial appearance of GAD often follows a highly stressful event, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of an important relationship, the loss of a job, or being a victim of a crime.