Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by an excessive number of unmanageable worries that don’t go away by themselves and last for a minimum of six months. The concerns that cause the anxiety are usually very numerous and broad in scope, which is why the problem is referred to as “generalized.”


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The thoughts that cause the worrying aren’t usually about life-threatening matters. If a person were in immediate danger, his or her emotional and physical reactions would more accurately be described as fear. Fear and anxiety are related emotions, but anxiety more precisely describes a situation where the cause of concern isn’t imminent.

Everyone experiences normal, temporary periods of anxiety in life, such as worrying about a problem at work or worrying about a loved one when he or she is sick. However, a person with GAD worries excessively almost every day and, typically, the worrisome thoughts jump from one cause of concern to the next, making them uncontrollable, time-consuming, and very distracting. Overall, GAD is an intolerable and painful disorder.

When a person is struggling with GAD, he or she has numerous troubling thoughts that can’t be controlled throughout the day. The causes of concern might not even be related to one another. For example, a man with GAD might worry that someone he knows is in danger, have nearly constant thoughts that his car could break down, and be anxious about some task that he’s trying to complete at work. In cases like this, the person is usually afraid of being unable to cope with these future events if the worst outcome should occur. As these worries accumulate, the person begins to think of the world as a very unsafe and unpredictable place. For most people with GAD, this uncertainty and inability to predict what will happen is very disturbing.

Some people with GAD might recognize that their worries are excessive and go beyond what might realistically happen, while others might think that all of their worries are within the realm of possibility. In both cases, the anxious thoughts appear impossible to stop and are extremely troublesome. People with GAD find it very difficult to focus on tasks that require concentration. They also suffer from frequent muscle aches, tension, and difficulties sleeping, as well as general feelings of being uneasy most of the time.


This website is for informational purposes only and does not provide an official diagnosis. Anyone struggling with a physical or mental health problem should seek the services of a medical or psychological professional as soon as possible. Furthermore, if you’re having thoughts about suicide or hurting someone else, please see our crisis resources list, contact your local emergency services, or go to a local hospital immediately.