Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Everyone occasionally worries about things they have to do or significant life events and decisions. Short-term worry can sometimes serve a positive function in that it compels us to action. In fact, athletes often perform better when they have a certain degree of concern regarding their performance.

Excessive and uncontrollable worry that does not diminish over time can be a sign of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The person with GAD is often immobilized by a cycle of anxiety about everyday concerns to the point of being unable to think beyond the problem in order to find a resolution. Some of the more common worries are:

• Punctuality or timely task completion,

• Health and safety of oneself or significant others,

• Community or world issues or events,

• Small repairs,

• Finances,

• School or work responsibilities, productivity, or performance.

Such excessive worry often results in feeling restless, keyed up, or on edge. The resulting muscle tension can cause headaches or pain. Worry often interferes with sleep, resulting in difficulty falling or staying asleep or a restless, unsatisfying sleep, leaving the individual feeling fatigued throughout the day. It is not uncommon for someone with GAD to have difficulty concentrating or remembering things. Excessive worry can also result in considerable irritability.

Many symptoms of GAD overlap with depression which often results in a misdiagnosis. However, the toll of constant worry can result in feelings of depression that are not sufficient for a diagnosis of a mood disorder, but may indicate Mixed Anxiety and Depression.


Many of the early treatments for GAD consisted of relaxation in order to reduce the associated symptoms, but did not directly help with excessive worry. A number of newer techniques have been added to Cognitive Behavior Therapy that directly address the worry process. Helping the person to limit when and the amount of time dedicated to worrying is an important component of treatment. Additionally, mindfulness and acceptance strategies help the person to experience real life problems in a way that does not allow anxiety to become overwhelming.