Generalised anxiety disorder

If someone's got generalised anxiety sisorder (GAD), it means they're worrying uncontrollably, and it's harming their day-to-day life. There are a number of different causes and mental and physical signs that this could be happening. There are also ways to treat and manage GAD so it doesn't get in the way of a person's life.

This can help if:

  • You can worry about anything and everything a lot of the time and often uncontrollably
  • You get tired easily or can't sleep properly 
  • You're constantly tense or restless, or lose your temper easily 
  • You get racing heart, dry mouth, choking sensations, or feel dizzy or spaced-out 
  • These symptoms are there most days, and have been around for six months
boy in class with pencil

What is it?

Most people worry about things at different times – it's a normal reaction to having to wake up and be a human every day. People worry over work problems, exams, family issues, relationship dramas and fights between friends, but if you can't control your worrying, and it's affecting the rest of your life in a bad way, it's possible you have generalised anxiety disorder. 

Causes of generalised anxiety disorder

It’s difficult to pin point the exact cause of generalised anxiety disorder. It could be to do with the particular way you are wired, the chemicals in your brain, or it could run in the family. It could also be that your personality and the environment you live in play a role in it. 

What are the signs and symptoms?

There are a lot of signs of GAD. Aside from the big one, which is constantly worrying or feeling anxious without being able to stop, they include: 
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Dizziness or feeling spacey or vague often after being anxious
  • Headaches
  • Aches and pains in your stomach and muscles (especially your neck and shoulders)
  • Trouble sleeping because it’s hard to stop thinking or worrying
  • Racing thoughts
  • Memory problems or difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble making decisions 
  • Getting angry easily
You probably won't get all or even most of these, but if a couple of them are sounding familiar, there are ways you can tackle them. 

Dealing with worry and anxiety

You can deal with uncontrollable anxiety and worry whether or not you have GAD. 

The quickest and easiest way is to talk to a health professional about it. This could be your GP, a psychologist or psychiatrist, or another mental health worker. They’re experts in managing problems like this, so they'll be able to give you a hand. 

Sometimes when it’s severe people can also take medication to manage anxiety – again, this is a matter of seeing your doctor and letting them know what's happening. Usually it’s encouraged to bring a friend of family member in with you if you want to.

It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

If you want to hear from others, watch this 3-minute video about feeling anxious.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 30 March, 2016
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