Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

stressed out

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common disorder characterized by excessive uncontrollable anxiety, apprehension, and worry.  The worries interfere with daily tasks and are very difficult to control.  Unlike Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder or Panic Disorder, GAD is more focused on real-life worries.  Anticipation anxiety is the main characteristic of GAD.  Everyday worries are amplified beyond adaptive functioning.  GAD sufferers will anticipate the worst, but the fear is usually way out of proportion to the likelihood of it happening.


Friends or family members might describe a person with GAD as a “born worrier” because of their endless reports of perceived catastrophes.  The sufferer might agree that they have felt pretty nervous / anxious for a very long time.  GAD can, however, manifest later in life.



What-If Thinking

They don’t just worry about one thing, the worrying extends to many aspects of their life.

The hallmark of the Generalized Anxiety thought process is "what if" thinking due to persistent intolerance of uncertainty. 


Some what-ifs:


  • What if I’m late for work?
  • What if I don’t do well on the history quiz?
  • What if I don’t get the job?
  • What if my marriage fails?
  • What if my children get sick?
  • What if I don’t have enough money?
  • What if I can’t take care of my parents?
  • What if I fail?
  • What if I make a mistake?
  • What if I don’t get enough sleep for tomorrow’s trip?
  • What if this event goes all wrong?




In adults, the worries are usually about everyday circumstances such as one’s career, finances, relationships, dating, family life, health of loved ones, time management, appointments, and other responsibilities. 


In children and adolescents, the worries are more focused on the competence or quality of performance, school issues, competition in sports or music, acceptance or rejection from peers, seeking approval, beginning relationships, and siblings.  



GAD is usually associated with some of these following symptoms:


  • Restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep (Insomnia)
  • Muscle Tension
  • Low concentration / Inattention
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Restlessness
  • Nausea /vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Chronic stomach aches / butterflies


Other notable symptoms:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Shaky feeling
  • Being startled easily
  • Frequent urination
  • Cold, clammy hands
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Feeling a “lump in the throat”




Generalized Anxiety Disorder can co-occur with other anxiety disorders, depression, and medical conditions.  A therapist should be able to distinguish Generalized Anxiety Disorder from an Anxiety Disorder Due to a General Medical Condition.  A physician should also be able to distinguish GAD from a medical condition such as hyperthyroidism, etc.  In addition, Substance-Induced Anxiety should be distinguished from GAD.  Certain substances such as caffeine, alcohol, medication, and other drugs can cause anxiety disturbance.


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Page Disclaimer

The GAD information on this site has not been evaluated nor has it been written by a physician or medical doctor. The information contained on this site is for entertainment purposes only and should not be used to diagnose, treat or prevent a medical or psychological disorder.


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