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Generalised anxiety disorder occurs when a person worries so excessively and uncontrollably that it starts to affect their life.

This can help if:

  • you spend a lot of time worrying about anything and everything
  • you feel like you can’t control how much you worry
  • you have trouble sleeping or concentrating because you worry so much.
Boy looking to the side on front of TV

What is generalised anxiety disorder?

It’s perfectly normal to worry about things such as school, work, family, friends and the future. There will inevitably be times when we worry even more than usual, such as when someone we care about is unwell.

However, people with generalised anxiety disorder tend to worry excessively about numerous everyday life events at the same time for prolonged periods (up to many months). They worry so much, their anxiety becomes uncontrollable and affects their energy, concentration and sleep.

Signs of generalised anxiety disorder include:

  • feeling restless or having difficulty relaxing
  • feeling tired
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • having tense muscles
  • having trouble sleeping
  • feeling irritable.

What causes generalised anxiety disorder?

Generalised anxiety disorder develops from a range of individual and environmental factors, such as family history, personality traits, and trauma and stressful events. Unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs (such as justifying worrying because ‘it will help me prepare for a catastrophe if it happens’) only perpetuate the problem and make the anxiety worse.

What treatment is available for generalised anxiety disorder?

If you believe you worry too much and it has started to affect your life, talk to a medical health professional. They can help you change the way you think and offer suggestions for managing your anxiety.

The most effective treatment for generalised anxiety disorder is a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT focuses on:

  • Education: learning about why you worry and feel anxious, and how it affects you.
  • Change in thinking: identifying and shifting unhelpful thinking patterns and beliefs.
  • Change in behaviour: scheduling in appropriate times to worry, rather than worrying all the time.

Medication may also be required in some cases and is known to be effective when taken alongside CBT.

What can I do now?