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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is a type of anxiety disorder that deals with excessive and persistent worry about a number of things in someone’s life. GAD is typically diagnosed when a person finds it difficult to manage and control worrying for at least six months and has three or more symptoms. 1

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is different from other disorders because when people experience normal anxiety, it’s common to worry about things that correlate to a triggering situation or several other things that make them anxious. On the other hand, people with GAD are often described as “excessive worriers” because they worry about everything all the time; even before a fearful event or situation happens. 3

How is Generalized Anxiety Disorder different from other mental health issues?

Anxiety is a common symptom that is involved in a vast number of mental health conditions. However, GAD stands out from other mental health issues because in other illnesses they are often a cause of anxieties and or a quick feeling of anxiety. Yet, people with GAD worry about a number of different topics over a long period of time (six months or more). 2

People who suffer from GAD often expect the worst outcomes and scenarios. Children and teens with GAD often excessively worry about physical appearance, social acceptance, school performance, and failing to meet parents’ expectations. 4


Statistically in the US, GAD affects 6.8 million adults, 3.1% of the US population, in any given year. An estimated 8% of teens suffer from an anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, women are twice as likely to be affected by this disorder. GAD typically comes on gradually and can begin at any age. However, the risk is highest between childhood and middle age. 1 


Although there is not a specific direct event that can lead to developing GAD, there is evidence that biological factors, family background, and life experiences, especially stressful ones, can play a role in the development of the disorder.


Other causes of and risk factors for GAD may include: 

  • a family history of anxiety 

  • recent or prolonged exposure to stressful situations, including personal or family illnesses

  • excessive use of caffeine and or tobacco, which could play a role in worsening existing anxiety issues

  • childhood abuse

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to the Mayo Clinic, when dealing with GAD, it is possible to have physical and mental symptoms. 5

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms may include: 

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events

  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes

  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even if they aren’t 

  • Difficulty handling and coping with uncertainty

  • Indecisiveness and constant fear of making the wrong decision

  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry

  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge

  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “blanks” 

  • Procrastinating or having trouble making decisions

  • Avoiding activities that could potentially turn out badly (even the risk is minimal)

Physical symptoms may include: 

  • Fatigue 

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Muscle tension or muscle aches

  • Trembling, feeling twitchy

  • Nervousness or being easily startled 

  • Sweating

  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome

  • Irritability


If you are experiencing three or more symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, you may be suffering from generalized anxiety disorder.  

Is GAD treatable?

Fortunately, GAD, like many other anxiety disorders, is treatable. Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be effectively treated with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of the two. 7


Don’t be hesitant and wait until it’s too late, get help as soon as you can. 

If you have generalized anxiety disorder, the most effective treatment is usually a combination of medications and talk therapy. A psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressants to accompany psychotherapy. Within the different types and techniques of psychotherapy, one or more of the different techniques may be very helpful for you. 6


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