Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

A Woman with Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Defining Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by an acute anxiety/worriedness about regular day-to-day things. This excessive and uncontrolled anxiety is usually disproportionate to the deserved source of worry. GAD can take its toll on patients and people surrounding the patients. People suffering from this behavioral disorder often find it tough to carry out normal day to day routine.

The symptoms and psychological aspects may take up to 6 months to surface completely. It is one of the biggest reasons for workplace disability in the United States. Most people face difficulty in swallowing food and have a hard time concentrating on work. They may also find it tough to control the anxiety and are preoccupied with concerns about matters like general health and well-being, money matters, death, family problems, problems related to friends, and difficulty at work. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Panic Disorder are some other forms of anxiety disorder.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Twitching
  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Excessive sweating
  • Sleeplessness
  • Rashes
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Tense muscles
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness
  • Flashes of rage and anxiety
  • Irrational behavioral reactions

Causes and Risk Factors

Genetics and substance use are the two most common causes of GAD. If there has been a history of it in your family, chances are that you are genetically predisposed to GAD. While genetic GAD may reach a chronic stage, but it can be treated.

Excessive alcohol use is also related to GAD. Alcohol abuse can “bump” up the underlying anxiety. While immediate withdrawal can actually heighten anxiety in people suffering from alcohol-induced GAD, in the long term, abstinence can totally eliminate it.

The use of benzodiazepines also results in GAD. Moreover, it has been scientifically proven that lowering the use of benzodiazepines intake can considerably reduce anxiety.

Caffeine and nicotine are known to act as catalysts in increasing anxiety. While both of these substances do not cause GAD directly; these can increase the levels of anxiety in people suffering from GAD. Long term depression, disturbed childhood, unfavorable living conditions and traumatic surroundings are the causes of this behavioral disorder.

Some of the risk factors that may lead to GAD include:

  1. Gender: Females are twice as likely to suffer from GAD as compared to males.
  2. Stress: Stress is a natural cause of anxiety. Prolonged stress can lead to never-ending anxiety. Anxiety about one thing or event slowly envelopes everything and the person suffering from GAD starts looking at everything with suspicion and feels anxious even about the mundane events of life.
  3. Personality related disorders: People with certain types of personalities may be more prone to GAD. People suffering from disorders like borderline personalized disorder are 90% more prone to acquire it.
  4. Childhood trauma: Children with troubled childhood and childhood related trauma are more prone to acquire GAD as adults.

Untreated, GAD can lead to conditions such as:

  • Prolonged mental illness
  • Long-term fatigue
  • Mental stress
  • Suicide attempts


GAD can be treated cognitively with Cognitive Behavioral therapy or pharmacologically using drugs such as SSRIs. Some of the common types cognitive treatments employed to lower anxiety include:

Pharmacological Treatment includes the use of Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs. SSRI drugs are mostly used to treat clinical depression and are potent in lowering anxiety related to stress.


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