What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is diagnosed in people who continually worry about a wide variety of possibilities. The key feature is worry. People with GAD commonly anticipate the worst possibility and experience these thoughts going around and around in their heads. Generalised anxiety disorder is basically an extreme form of worry that has reached such a level that the worrying interferes with the person’s life. Generalised anxiety disorder is not age specific and can occur from early childhood right through to older age.

Commonly Feared Situations in Generalised Anxiety Disorder

People with GAD will often try to avoid situations that might trigger worries:

  • Making mistakes (e.g., in work or homework)
  • Going into new or unusual situations
  • Watching frightening news or movies

People with GAD can often be quite perfectionistic and can take a long time to complete tasks that others might do in half the time.

Common Beliefs in Generalised Anxiety Disorder

As mentioned above, worry is the key feature of GAD. A person experiencing GAD can often see possible danger in the most common events. Some common areas of worry include:

  • Finances (own or parents’)
  • Relationships
  • Health (own and significant others’)
  • Work or school
  • Small everyday issues

Physical symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder

People with GAD will have many of the usual physical symptoms of anxiety. Some of the most common include:

  • Muscle tension
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Irritability
  • Trouble sleeping

Who is affected by Generalised Anxiety disorder?

In Western countries GAD affects around 3-5% of the population in any one year, and up to 5% of the population may experience GAD at some point in their lives. It occurs more often in women than men.

Generalised anxiety disorder can begin from a very early age (preschool), but it seems to become more common in late childhood to early adolescence (around 8-12 years). Generalised anxiety disorder is a chronic condition that doesn’t easily change without treatment. Many adults with GAD report being “worriers” for as long as they can remember.

People with GAD often meet criteria for other anxiety disorders, as well as depression.