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Generalized Anxiety Disorder(GAD)

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Generalized Anxiety Disorder(GAD)

4 min read


Generalized anxiety disorder majorly affects the quality of life of individuals. Read the article to know more about it.

Written by

Dr. Ashok Kumar

Medically reviewed by

iCliniq medical review team

Published At September 19, 2013
Reviewed AtMay 30, 2024


Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be defined as anxiety and worry about several events and activities for an extended period of days. The anxiety and worry of GAD differ from normal anxiety by its excessiveness, the difficulty of controlling it, and its interference with our routine daily life. The onset of GAD can be primary (without any apparent cause) or secondary to thyroid problems, drug abuse, or cardiovascular diseases.

Generalized anxiety disorder is much more common in women than in men. The age of onset is often difficult to calculate, as most patients typically report a history of excessive worry throughout their lives.

What Are the Common Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorders are similar to other forms of mental illness. The specific cause of generalized anxiety disorder is still not known. However, it is considered that a combination of the following factors can contribute to this condition:

  • Long-term exposure to stressful events.

  • Severe or long-term stress can change the chemical balance that controls the mood. Experiencing stress for a prolonged period can lead to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

  • Genetics: Anxiety disorders can run in families.

  • Differences in brain chemistry and function.

  • Differences in the way how threats are perceived.

What Is the Prevalence of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder is prevalent, impacting approximately three percent of the adult population. In childhood, anxiety affects around 25 % of children between the ages of 13 and 18 at some point. Nevertheless, the lifetime occurrence of severe anxiety disorders among children aged 13 to 18 is approximately six percent.

What Are the Risk Factors for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed with slightly greater frequency in women compared to men. The subsequent elements could elevate the likelihood of experiencing generalized anxiety disorder:

  • Personality traits such as timidity, negativity, or a tendency to avoid perceived risks may render an individual more susceptible to generalized anxiety disorder than those with different dispositions.

  • Genetics play a role, as generalized anxiety disorder tends to be hereditary within families.

  • Past experiences contribute, as individuals with generalized anxiety disorder often have a background marked by substantial life alterations, traumatic or adverse childhood events, or recent negative occurrences. Additionally, the presence of chronic medical conditions or other mental health issues may heighten the risk.

What Are the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Physical complaints can be prominent, and patients could have symptoms of motor tension, tremors, palpitation, giddiness, fearfulness, weakness, and headaches. Patients with autonomic hyperactivity can have gastrointestinal, pulmonary, or cardiovascular complaints, whereas patients with cognitive vigilance are often irritable and easily frazzled.

Psychosocial symptoms include:

  • Difficulty handling uncertainty.

  • Feeling restless.

  • Indecisiveness.

  • Fear of making wrong decisions.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

Some of the physical signs of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) include:

  • Weakness.

  • Irritability.

  • Muscle ache.

  • Nervousness.

  • Sweating.

  • Trouble sleeping.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • Trembling.

  • Rapid heart rate.

  • Numbness in different parts of the body.

Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) a Chronic Condition?

The course of GAD is variable. It is usually regarded as a chronic condition that worsens with life stressors like the occurrence of negative life events.

What Other Mental Health Disorders Commonly Occur with Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Approximately 50 to 90 % of patients with a generalized anxiety disorder(GAD) have an associated mental disorder such as depressive disorder, panic disorder, and dysthymic disorder.

Research shows that the onset of GAD typically occurs before the onset of depression and that depression may result secondary to the chronic stress of GAD. The other mental health disorders associated with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are the following:

  • Phobias.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

  • Suicidal thoughts.

  • Substance abuse.

How Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

A physical examination and a mental health screening diagnose generalized anxiety disorder. During a physical examination, the doctor looks for the signs of anxiety. The doctor further questions about the medical history to check if any underlying condition or certain medications are linked to the condition. If in case the doctor suspects an underlying medical condition or any substance abuse, then a few tests like blood tests, urine tests, gastric reflux tests, and stress tests may be recommended.

How Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder Treated?

Even though generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common psychiatric illness, only one-third of patients seek treatment for it. Others seek help for somatic symptoms of this illness from various other physicians, such as cardiologists, internists, and gastroenterologists. The treatment depends on how this anxiety disorder affects the ability to perform daily functions.

Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder includes:

  • Psychotherapy.

  • Medications.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one effective form of psychotherapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on educating the individual on how to manage worries and fear and also helps to gradually return to normal activities.


Medications usually prescribed for generalized anxiety disorder are the following:

  • Antidepressants.

  • Buspirone.

  • Benzodiazepines.

What Are Some of the Complications of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

Some of the complications of a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) are:

  • It impairs the ability to perform day-to-day activities quickly and productively.

  • It's hard to focus on something.

  • Difficulty concentrating.

  • It increases the risk of depression.

Generalized anxiety disorder can worsen other physical conditions like:

  • Sleep problems.

  • Headaches and migraines.

  • Digestive problems.

  • Issues related to the heart.

How to Prevent Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

There is no specific way to determine when and how generalized anxiety disorder will affect a person. However, there are some ways that a person can follow to reduce the impact of the symptoms of anxiety disorder.

  1. Ask for help. There are so many helplines available to help the person out with this condition.

  2. Keep track of the daily routine activities to determine what is causing the stress. By keeping track, they can find ways to relieve stress.

  3. Try to manage time and energy. This is one way a person can reduce the anxiety level. Prioritize the issues in their life.

  4. Avoid unhealthy practices like drug abuse, alcohol consumption, use of nicotine or caffeine, etc. If the person is not able to stop the habit on their own, find a treatment program or support group to help them out with this habit.

What Are the Lifestyle Changes Needed to Manage Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Some lifestyle modifications that can help manage this condition better include:

  1. Keep physically active. Exercise is the best stress reliever.

  2. Prioritize the sleep. Proper and adequate sleep can improve the condition by reducing stress.

  3. Perform some relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, etc.

  4. Eat a healthy diet.


Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental condition characterized by excessive fear and worry. Taking medications as directed and practicing the skills learned in psychotherapy can help to improve the condition. Consistency makes a big difference when managing this condition.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Does an Untreated Generalized Anxiety Disorder Do?

The generalized anxiety disorder, if left untreated, can interfere and disrupt the normal daily life activities of an individual, like driving a car, falling asleep, going to school or work, etc., and make it challenging to lead an everyday life. It can also cause relationship problems.


What Factors Mainly Cause Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Though the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is not clear, it is believed that the following factors might be causing it.
- Genetic inheritance.
- Problems or imbalances in the chemicals (neurotransmitters) within the brain.
- Growing up as a timid or shy kid.
- Negative childhood experiences like family conflict, parents’ divorce, major illness, etc.
- Learning anxiety from the anxious behaviors of the family members or caregivers.


How Do People With Generalized Anxiety Disorder Feel Like?

People with generalized anxiety disorder tend to worry several times a day and every day about day-to-day life happenings and are anxious to perform normal daily life activities. They are always in a state of tension, worry, and anxiety. They experience symptoms like,
- Mental and physical exhaustion.
- Sleep deprivation.
- Tiredness and weakness.
- Constantly worried.
- Have intrusive thoughts.
- Constant feeling of apprehension.
- Trouble concentrating.
- Avoiding situations that cause anxiety.
- Physical symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, sweating, rapid heartbeats, etc.


Who Is More Prone to Develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

- Children with a similar family history.
- Substance abusers.
- People with an abusive childhood.
- People with negative life experiences like the death of their loved ones, familial conflict, chronic illness, divorce, etc.


For What Duration Can One Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Persistent or recurrent anxiety for a period of more than six months is recognized as a generalized anxiety disorder. There is no particular time period after which the GAD resolves on its own. Once a person develops GAD, it does not resolve on its own, and instead, it worsens over time if left untreated.


Is It Possible to Lead a Normal Life With Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

It is impossible to lead a normal life with GAD. Such people worry excessively even in the absence of trouble regarding finance, health, relationships, work, family, etc. This makes them unable to relax a bit or fall asleep. They experience headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, etc., on a daily basis.


Does Aging Worsen Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorders tend to get worse with time and age if left untreated. They develop during adolescence or young adulthood. It takes time for one to identify the condition as the symptoms are not apparent in the early phases.


Is Generalized Anxiety Disorder a Problem of Concern?

Untreated GADs can be concerning as the physical impact of anxiety on one’s body can result in adverse health effects. Also, GAD is mostly accompanied by another mental health condition, which makes its diagnosis and treatment difficult, further worsening the condition.


Can One Get Rid of Generalized Anxiety Permanently?

Generalized anxiety disorder is a highly treatable condition with better treatment outcomes if identified and treated early. A combination of psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications can help treat GAD and lead a normal life.


Are There Any Non-Pharmacological Treatment Methods for Severe Anxiety?

- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy - Mental health professionals talk to you to change the way you perceive the world or look at worries. They help change your negative and intrusive thoughts and how you react to a situation that causes anxiety.
- Relaxation Techniques - Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation help overcome mental health disorders when performed consistently.
- Limit caffeine intake.
- Avoid alcohol and tobacco products.
- Get enough hours of sound sleep.
- Eat a balanced and nutritious diet.


What Therapy Treats Generalized Anxiety Disorder Better?

Generalized anxiety disorder can be treated either by psychotherapy or with medications. Sometimes a combination of both is recommended for better effects.
- Psychotherapy - It includes cognitive-behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques. Trained mental health professionals teach you how to think and react to an anxiety-prone situation.
- Support Groups - Getting mingled with the support groups with similar people and talking to them helps identify, understand, and analyze the problem in-depth and rectify the same.
- Medications - Usually to treat GAD, anti-anxiety medicines (Benzodiazepines) like Alprazolam, Diazepam, etc., and antidepressants like Escitalopram, Paroxetine, etc., are used for a short period.
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Dr. Ashok Kumar
Dr. Ashok Kumar



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