What Are the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder symptoms
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Everyone experiences anxiety at some point. Occasional stress and worry about relationships, school, work, money, and health are just a normal part of life. For people with generalized anxiety disorder, however, simply thinking about everyday events can result in serious feelings of distress and anxiety.

Take a closer look at what generalized anxiety disorder is and how it is treated.

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Some anxiety and worry is normal.

These normal amounts of anxiety can actually help you respond to threats and feel motivated to get things done. However, excessive worry and anxiety may indicate an illness known as generalized anxiety disorder.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a prolonged and exaggerated worry that has few or no specific sources. Individuals suffering from GAD often describe feeling constantly worried, anxious, nervous, and uneasy. In order to be diagnosed, these feelings must be persistently present for a period of six months or longer.

Who is Affected by Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, more than 6.8 million American adults, or 3.1 percent of the population, experience generalized anxiety disorder during any given year.

More than twice as many women than men suffer from the disorder. While the disorder can occur at any time throughout the lifespan, it most often arises sometime between childhood and middle age.

GAD frequently occurs alongside another problem including other anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or depression.

There is some evidence that genetics play a role in the development of GAD. Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism, dealing with a serious illness, and stress can play a role in causing GAD.

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

In order to be diagnosed with GAD, the feelings of excessive anxiety must be present more often than not for a period of at least 6 months. In addition to finding it difficult to control these feelings of worry, these feelings must cause significant impairment in one or more areas of functioning such as school, work, or daily life.

Some common symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include:

  • Excessive worry with no specific source
  • Exaggerated startle reflex
  • Inability to sleep due to worrying
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble controlling worrying thoughts
  • Being easily fatigued
  • Muscle tension
  • Feeling that things will always end badly
  • Always feeling on edge

Treatments for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

  • Cognitive-behavior therapy is often an effective treatment. This therapy focuses on changing disruptive thinking and behavior patterns. The goal of cognitive-behavioral therapy is to restructure distorted thoughts and help the individual change their reactions to stress.
  • Learning new coping skills and relaxation techniques is often beneficial.
  • Medications including antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs are often used in combination with therapy.
  • Co-occurring disorders must also be treated using the appropriate therapies, treatments, or medications.


American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (Fifth edition). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.

Anxiety and Depression Association of American. Facts and statistics. 

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