Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worrying that adversely affects a person’s life for at least six months at a time. GAD is, for the most part, an irrational response to a particular stimulus. A common example would be worrying about constantly missing the school bus, being late for meetings or worrying about receiving bad news to the point that it affects one’s daily activities. These everyday stimuli may not seem important to the general population, but for an individual with generalized anxiety disorder, the most trivial instances can create an enormous amount of stress and anguish.
GAD affects 6.8 million adults in the U.S., with twice as many women as men affected, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Because anxiety is a common emotion, identifying the existence of an anxiety disorder can be difficult. Short-term anxiety about purchasing a home, changing jobs or an upcoming wedding can be very normal, and small amounts of anxiety may actually be healthy because it maintains a balance of stress hormones such as cortisol. So that patients may help themselves or a loved one to obtain treatment for an anxiety disorder, it is imperative to become familiar with its common symptoms.
Causes And Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
The causes of GAD are numerous and up for debate, but the symptoms are fairly well-known and explained by Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D., both writing for HelpGuide.
Symptoms of GAD typically include – but are not limited to – the following:
- Hot flashes, restlessness and fidgeting
- Muscle tension and aches
- Difficulty swallowing and dry mouth
- Headaches, fatigue and feeling short of breath
- Agitation, irritability, trembling and twitching
- Difficulty breathing and concentrating
- Dry skin, rashes and acne
- Nausea, numbness, sweating and insomnia
- Constant worrying
- Unable to complete and succeed in your daily routine because of the anxiety
GAD can co-occur with other anxiety disorders and behavioral health issues. Although many patients admitted to treatment centers believe they are dealing with GAD, their symptoms sometimes result from other anxiety-based disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or panic disorder. GAD can be similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is characterized by obsessive and intrusive thoughts relieved by compulsive actions. The main difference is that GAD is not characterized by carrying out compulsive acts in order to gain relief from the intrusive thoughts. Instead GAD primarily deals with obsessive thoughts.