Generalized anxiety disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder 

Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) is marked by excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worry about everyday life events for no obvious reason. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can't stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school.

Everyone feels anxiety now and then, and there can be good reasons why. But in people with GAD, the worry is often unrealistic or out of proportion for the situation. Daily life becomes a constant state of worry, fear, and dread. Eventually, anxiety can even dominate a person's thinking so much that they find it hard to do routine things at work or school, socially, and in their relationships. But there are treatments to ease anxiety so it’s not running your life.



As with many mental health conditions, the cause of generalized anxiety disorder likely arises from a complex interaction of biological and environmental factors, which may include:

  • Differences in brain chemistry and function
  • Genetics
  • Differences in the way threats are perceived
  • Development and personality



Physical and mental symptoms of GAD include:

  • perceiving situations as more threatening than they are
  • difficulty in letting go of worries
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty sleeping
  • difficulty with uncertain situations
  • irritability, nervousness, over thinking, and difficulty relaxing
  • fatigue and exhaustion
  • muscle tension
  • twitching or trembling
  • sweating (including sweaty palms)
  • repeated stomach aches, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal issues
  • feeling shaky or weak
  • rapid heartbeat
  • dry mouth
  • being easily startled
  • neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling in different parts of the body

Childhood and teenage anxiety may occur in about 1 in 4  children at some point during their teen years. Symptoms in young people and teenagers can also include:

  • anxiety about fitting in with their peers
  • issues with confidence and self-esteem
  • worrying excessively about or avoiding social situations and schoolwork
  • worrying about approval from teachers and other authority figures
  • having issues with physical symptoms such as stomach aches


If you have symptoms of GAD, your doctor will begin an evaluation by asking questions about your medical and psychiatric history. You may also get a physical exam. Lab tests don’t diagnose anxiety disorders, but some can help doctors check for any physical illness that might be causing the symptoms. The doctor bases their diagnosis of GAD on reports of how intense and long-lasting the symptoms are, including any problems with daily life caused by the symptoms. The doctor then determines whether the person has a specific anxiety disorder or generalized anxiety disorder.

For someone to be diagnosed with GAD, symptoms must interfere with daily living and be present for more days than not for at least 6 months.

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