Exploring Anxiety Disorder: General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Posted by on Mar 9, 2015 in Anxiety Treatment

Exploring Anxiety Disorder: General Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

A number of disorders fall under the classification of Anxiety Disorder. Some of the most common anxiety disorders includes post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), social phobia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Anxiety disorder is the second most common type of mental illness after depression and often times goes undiagnosed. According to research, an estimated 25% of the population will experience some type of symptom typical to anxiety in their life time. However, for purposes of this blog, the focus will be placed on General Anxiety Disorder or GAD. What makes someone who is experiencing some sort of anxiety on a daily basis, different from someone who is diagnosed with an anxiety disorder? The answer to this popular question is the severity of the symptoms been demonstrated. In order to accurately diagnosis and distinguish an anxiety disorder from normal anxiety, one should explore the duration, frequency, antecedents and consequences of the specific symptom.

Anxiety affects the way one feels about a situation, event and can take on a variety of both emotional and physical symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety are rapid heartbeats or heart palpitations, sweating, tingling and numbness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms are very real and can be frightening for the individuals that are experiencing them. An accurate diagnosis of the specific anxiety disorder is necessary for proper treatment.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder is described when an individual experiences an excessive amount of anxiety and worry about a variety of events occurring more days than none, in a time frame of at least six months. GAD is characterized by an uncontrollable form of worry concerning any kind of event or circumstance. This causes distractions from one’s daily activities. Individuals who suffer from GAD are often times considered “worrywarts”, and often endorse symptoms of anxiety nearly every day. Usually sufferers of GAD do not understand or know why they worry so much, and may tend to experience physical symptoms such as upset stomach, insomnia, fatigue and feelings of restlessness. Often times these individuals will feel that something bad is going to happen, and spend most of their time worrying.

In addition to worrying, for an accurate diagnosis of GAD to be made, the individual must also endorse three additional symptoms including fatigue, irritability, restlessness, difficulty concentration, muscle tension and sleep disturbances. It is also important to note that for an accurate diagnosis of GAD and to distinguish it from other anxiety disorders, the individual must be assessed for the frequency and duration of symptoms. Some anxiety disorders may exhibit the same symptoms; therefore knowing what differentiates one from the other is also very important.   Individuals who suffer from GAD usually experience symptoms that take over the individual’s life most of the time.


Studies indicates that individual’s suffering from GAD tend to have levels of sensitivity and arousals that are higher than the norm, and often relate their worrying to illnesses, which in turn lends them to seek out medical treatment more than the average individual. Therefore, it is important that healthcare professionals assess for both cognitive and psychological functioning. Research shows that 5.1% of the population will experience generalized anxiety disorder in their lifetime. GAD is twice more prevalent in women than men, and individuals tended to be over the age of 24, divorced, widowed, separated, unemployed, homemakers and often associated with other mental disorders.

Treatment options

GAD is not as researched as other types of anxiety disorders; therefore little is known about effective treatment. However, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been very helpful, as it targets the symptoms of worry and avoidance. Psychodynamic therapy has also been seen as helpful, as it targets those GAD sufferers whose symptoms are caused by unconscious conflicts. Some psycho-tropic medications have also been identified to help relieve symptoms of GAD, including some SSRI’s.

Some of the most popular general self-help treatments for anxiety disorders may include making time daily for relaxation and fun filled activities. Taking care of your body, including maintaining a proper diet and exercising regimen. Getting good emotional support, when needed. Not overloading yourself with extraneous responsibilities. Getting enough sleep and reducing your intake of alcohol and nicotine, this tends to lead to more anxiety.

Please note that the subject discussed here is not to be used for diagnosis purposes.   If you believe you may be suffering from an Anxiety Disorder please seek professional help immediately.