GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include feeling restless or worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.
Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder. Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can affect you both physically and mentally.
How severe the symptoms are varies from person to person. Some people have only one or two symptoms, while others have many more.
Psychological symptoms of GAD
GAD can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think and feel about things, resulting in symptoms such as:
a sense of dread
feeling constantly "on edge"
Your symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact (seeing your family and friends) to avoid feelings of worry and dread.
You may also find going to work difficult and stressful and may take time off sick. These actions can make you worry even more about yourself and increase your lack of self-esteem.
Physical symptoms of GAD
GAD can also have a number of physical symptoms, including:
a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
muscle aches and tension
trembling or shaking
shortness of breath
pins and needles
difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)
If you are anxious as a result of a specific phobia or because of panic disorder, you will usually know what the cause is. For example, if you have claustrophobia (a fear of enclosed spaces), you know that being confined in a small space will trigger your anxiety.
However, if you have GAD, it may not always be clear what you are feeling anxious about. Not knowing what triggers your anxiety can intensify it and you may start to worry that there will be no solution.
What causes GAD?
The exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, although it's likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Research has suggested these may include:
over activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
the genes you inherit from your parents – you're estimated to be five times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
having a history of drug or alcohol misuse
However, many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.
Who is affected?
GAD is a common condition estimated to affect about 1 in every 25 people in the UK.
Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is more common in people between the ages of 35 and 55.