General Anxiety Disorder

Table of Contents

What is General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)?

general anxiety disorderGeneral Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common mental health condition characterised by excessive, uncontrollable worry about various aspects of daily life. Individuals with GAD often find it challenging to manage their concerns, which can interfere with their ability to function normally. This chronic condition affects people of all ages and can significantly impact overall well-being.

Symptoms of General Anxiety Disorder

General Anxiety Disorder can present a wide range of symptoms, which can be categorised into psychological, physical, and behavioural symptoms.

Psychological Symptoms
  • Persistent and excessive worry about various aspects of life, such as health, work, and relationships
  • Difficulty concentrating or having your mind go blank
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of dread or impending doom
  • Restlessness or feeling on edge
Physical Symptoms
  • Fatigue or feeling tired easily
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Headaches
  • Sleep disturbances, including trouble falling or staying asleep or unsatisfying sleep
  • Sweating, nausea, or diarrhoea
Behavioural Symptoms
  • Avoidance of situations that cause anxiety
  • Inability to relax or enjoy leisure activities
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs to cope with anxiety
  • Procrastination due to overwhelming worry
  • Difficulty performing daily tasks or maintaining routines


Understanding these symptoms can help in recognising GAD and seeking appropriate treatment to manage and alleviate its impact.

Types of General Anxiety Disorder

While GAD itself is a specific type of anxiety disorder, it can manifest differently in individuals based on their unique circumstances and stressors. Some common variations include:

  • Chronic GAD: Long-term anxiety that persists for months or years.
  • Situational GAD: Anxiety that is triggered by specific situations or events, such as work stress or relationship issues.
  • Comorbid GAD: Anxiety that occurs alongside other mental health disorders, such as depression or other anxiety disorders.

Causes of General Anxiety Disorder

The exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic, environmental, and psychological factors:

  • Genetics: A family history of anxiety disorders may increase the risk of developing GAD.
  • Brain Chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, which are chemicals in the brain that regulate mood, can play a role.
  • Environmental Stress: Traumatic events, chronic stress, or significant life changes can trigger or exacerbate anxiety.
  • Personality: Certain personality traits, such as a tendency to worry or a high need for control, can make individuals more prone to GAD.

Treatment for General Anxiety Disorder

GAD is treatable, and several approaches can help manage symptoms effectively. Common treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective in helping individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This therapy is often used for trauma but can also be effective for GAD. EMDR involves guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation while recalling distressing events, helping to process and reduce the emotional impact of these memories.
  • Counselling: Professional counselling can provide a supportive environment for exploring and addressing the underlying issues contributing to anxiety. Counsellors can help develop coping strategies and offer emotional support.

Several types of medications can help manage the symptoms of GAD. These include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): Commonly prescribed SSRIs like sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), and escitalopram (Lexapro) increase serotonin levels in the brain, which can help improve mood and reduce anxiety.
  • Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): Medications such as venlafaxine (Effexor) and duloxetine (Cymbalta) work by increasing both serotonin and norepinephrine levels, helping to alleviate anxiety and depression.
  • Benzodiazepines: Drugs like diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), and alprazolam (Xanax) can provide quick relief for acute anxiety symptoms. However, they are usually prescribed for short-term use due to the risk of dependence and side effects.
  • Buspirone: Unlike benzodiazepines, buspirone (Buspar) is specifically for chronic anxiety and has a lower risk of dependence. It may take several weeks to feel its full effects.
  • Pregabalin– Pregabalin is an anticonvulsant drug sometimes used to treat GAD.
  • Beta-Blockers: Medications such as propranolol (Inderal) can help manage physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heart rate and trembling, by blocking the effects of adrenaline. 

Lifestyle Changes

Making positive lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on managing GAD symptoms. Key strategies include:


  • Regular Physical Activity: Exercise, such as walking, running, swimming, or yoga, can reduce stress and improve mood by releasing endorphins and reducing levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol.
  • Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can improve overall health and stabilise mood. Reducing caffeine and sugar intake can also help manage anxiety.
  • Adequate Sleep: Establishing a regular sleep routine and ensuring 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night can enhance mental health and reduce anxiety. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and avoiding screens before bed can promote better sleep.
  • Stress Management Techniques: Techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce stress and anxiety. Engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy and relaxation is also beneficial.
  • Social Connections: Building and maintaining strong social connections can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of isolation. Spending time with friends and family, participating in social activities, or joining clubs or groups can foster a sense of community.
  • Limiting Alcohol and Avoiding Drugs: Reducing alcohol consumption and avoiding recreational drugs can prevent exacerbating anxiety symptoms and improve overall mental health.
Support Groups

Joining a support group can provide a sense of community and shared experiences, which can be comforting and helpful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with GAD, it’s important to seek professional help. With the proper treatment and support, individuals with GAD can lead fulfilling and productive lives.