What does it look like?

People with generalized anxiety disorder have excessive and often irrational worry about everyday things. Their worries are often disproportionate to the actual source of their anxiety. They are sometimes labeled by others as being “worry wort’s” and often have a difficult time relaxing. Their excessive worrying interferes with daily activities.

The two main characteristics of generalized anxiety are excessive worry about things that are unlikely to happen and a high level of physical tension or nervousness. People may perceive them as being “high-strung.” Worry is almost always about situations that could happen in the future. Many people with generalized anxiety ask “what if” questions.

They often have difficulty concentrating and will ask people for reassurance because they are unsure about their abilities. They frequently have trouble sleeping. They usually experience some physical symptoms due to their extreme anxiety. These symptoms can include fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, trembling, twitching, irritability, sweating, nausea, lightheadedness, and feeling out of breath.

Who is affected?

Generalized anxiety is very common. Approximately 4% of the general population have generalized anxiety disorder in any given year.

Where does it come from?

Severe generalized anxiety is an important part of most other anxiety and phobic disorders. Like other anxiety disorders there may be a genetic predisposition to excessive worry or an event that caused excessive worry like loss of a job or move to a new location.

When does it happen?

Generalized anxiety disorder often becomes more of a problem as people get older. GAD occurs less often in younger people, but it can be triggered by life challenging events.

How do we treat it?

The most effective treatment is Cognitive behavior therapy with problem solving skills training. Some relaxation techniques are also used in treatment.