Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Everyone experiences occasional anxiety in reaction to life stressors like health, work, finances or family problems. But those with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) feel chronic worries over these and other issues even when there is little reason for concern. GAD is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about a range of topics that persists for a minimum of 6 months. Individuals with GAD experience difficulty in controlling their worry in addition to other physical or psychological symptoms that may include restlessness, fatigue, difficulty with concentration, irritability, muscle tension, and sleeplessness. In addition to difficulty controlling their own anxiety, individuals with GAD often suffer from other physical and psychological symptoms that can interfere with work, relationships and simple daily activities. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective in helping those with GAD cope with their symptoms through recognition of worried thoughts, positive lifestyle changes, mindfulness and relaxation techniques.

GAD Signs and Symptoms

GAD often develops slowly and progressively, with symptoms frequently emerging in adolescence or young adulthood and intensifying over time. Those with GAD typically experience a wide range of generalized symptoms and physical signs that may include:

  • Excessive worry and anxiety
  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating or mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Sleep disturbance

People with GAD tend to expect the worst and mentally extrapolate many situations to the most negative conclusion possible. They usually realize their anxiety is out of proportion with the actual situation, and they may even suffer anxiety about worrying too much.

When to Seek Help for GAD

If you experience symptoms for more than six months, you should seek help for a potential generalized anxiety disorder if symptoms persist over a period of months and begin to interfere with work, relationships or other aspects of your life. You should also consult a mental health professional if you suffer from symptoms of GAD in addition to having other mood disorders, suicidal thoughts, or an addiction to alcohol or other drugs.

GAD Causes and Treatment

Like many mental health conditions, the cause of GAD is not fully understood and may include hereditary factors, brain chemistry, family history, and stressful life events.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy has a high success rate in treating the long-term effects of GAD. CBT focuses on reducing the anxiety and depression associated with GAD through establishing practical goals, identifying stressors and finding solutions, and teaching techniques to manage worried thoughts, emotions and relieve stress.