Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD, is an anxiety disorder. It is characterized by chronic anxiety, exaggerated worry and tension, even when there is little or nothing to provoke. Everyone feels anxious and worried from time to time. This is especially true when faced with stressful situations; taking an exam, public speaking, playing in competitive sports or sitting for a job interview. This sort of anxiety can make you feel more alert and focused. This helps to get things done faster or perform at your best.

Those with GAD, however, feel anxious and worried most of the time. These feelings are not just in specific stressful situations. Also, these worries are intense, persistent and interfere with their normal lives. Their worries can relate to various aspects of everyday life, including work, health, family or financial issues. Common stressors that most perceive as minor things- household chores or being late for an appointment can cause crippling anxiety, leading to uncontrollable worries and a feeling of impending doom.

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of anxiety conditions are often not all that obvious. They can develop slowly over time and knowing that each of us experience some anxiety at various times in our lives, it can be hard to know how much is too much.

Normal anxiety tends to be short in duration and connected with some stressful situation or event, such as a job interview. The anxiety experienced by people with an anxiety condition is more frequent or persistent. And it is not always connected to an obvious stressful event. The anxiety impacts the quality of life and day-to-day functioning. There are some common symptoms including:
Physical: panic attacks, hot and cold flushes, racing heart, tightening of the chest, quick breathing, restlessness, or feeling tense, wound up and edgy
Psychological: excessive fear, worry, catastrophizing, or obsessive thinking
Behavioral: avoidance of situations that make you feel anxious which can impact work or social life.

These are just some of a number of symptoms that you might experience. They’re not designed to provide a diagnosis – for that you’ll need to see a doctor – but they can be used as a guide.

Children with GAD

Children with GAD tend to worry about issues related to school or sporting events, punctuality, natural disasters or war. Common behaviors include:
Being over-conforming
Being a perfectionist
Being unsure of oneself
Needing to re-do tasks
Seeking regular and frequent approval and assurance from parents, teachers, siblings or friends
Asking ‘Yes but, what if…?’
Many people with GAD are not able to identify a precise onset of their symptoms. However they are aware that they have a tendency to worry, and it has existed for a long time.

What causes GAD?

Generally combinations of factors are present in the development of GAD.
Biological factors: Changes in brain functioning have been associated with GAD.
Family history: People with GAD often have a history of mental health problems in their family.
Stressful life events: Experiencing a major life change, such as the birth of a child, the breakdown/loss of a close relationship, or moving house/job. Physical, sexual or emotional abuse can increase the risk of developing GAD. Also other traumatic experiences in childhood, such as the death of or separation from a parent can increase the risk of developing GAD..
Psychological factors: An individual’s personality traits can put them at a higher risk of GAD. This includes; being sensitive or overly emotional, experiencing general nervousness, the inability to tolerate frustration, feeling inhibited, or having perfectionistic tendencies.


A range of health professionals and services offer information, treatment and support for anxiety conditions, as well as a number of things you can do to help yourself. Effective treatment helps you learn how to control your anxiety so it doesn’t control you. The type of treatment will depend on the type of anxiety you’re experiencing.For mild symptoms your health professional might suggest lifestyle changes, such as regular physical exercise and reducing your stress levels.Treatment for anxiety includes dialectical behavioral therapy.

Medication can also play a part in successful treatment of GAD. Some antidepressant medications can help people to manage anxiety, even if they are not experiencing symptoms of depression. Research indicates that when people have an anxiety condition, specific changes occur in their brain’s chemicals – serotonin, noradrenaline and dopamine. Antidepressant medication is designed to correct the imbalance of chemical messages between nerve cells (neurons) in the brain. For a deeper look at medications and GAD: