What is Generalized Anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme levels of worry and anxiety. GAD is one of the most common disorders worldwide, affecting people of all ages and walks of life.

While everyone experiences worry from time to time, GAD is much more severe, causing a person to worry constantly about anything from everyday activities to possible future events. The symptoms of GAD include:

  • Excessive, uncontrollable worry 
  • Restlessness and high levels of tension or edginess caused by worry
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Sleep disturbances (either excessive sleep or difficulty getting enough)
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle aches
  • Increased irritability

There is no single cause for GAD but it is often brought about by long periods of stress or difficulty. Risk factors that can increase the likelihood of developing GAD (and other anxiety disorders) include upbringing, personality traits and genetic factors.

Treatment for GAD using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) teaches the person to become aware of their own patterns of thoughts and learn to identify when their worries are unrealistic or excessive. CBT also gives the person techniques to create new and more healthy ways of coping with stress and alleviate anxiety. Relaxation exercises are taught to relieve the buildup of tension in the muscles that is caused by the ongoing high activation in the body’s stress response system. Mindfulness and other attention training techniques enable the person to train their ability to choose their focus of attention to prevent worry from taking over.