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Generalized Anxiety Disorder

What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?


     Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves excessively worrying and feeling anxious or tense over a number of events and activities that are difficult to control (e.g., work, finances, relationships, health). The anxiety must persist for at least 6 months.

What are the symptoms of GAD?


      •   A person with GAD persistently finds it difficult to relax and control their worry about a number of events. This occurs on most days and over many months. The physical symptoms experienced may include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, and irritability.
      •   A person with GAD may not always recognize that their worries or tension levels are excessive, or that their level of anxiety is disproportionate to the actual likelihood of the worrisome/feared event occurring. For example, a person with GAD may worry each day that their car will break down, despite the fact that their car is well maintained and has not broken down in the past.
      •   The worries may be related to a number of fears and concerns, usually about what might happen in the future. For example, a person who worries about their ability to cope with a future illness or their fear of performing in front of colleagues at an upcoming meeting. These worries are not confined to a specific situation (e.g., social settings), are not about the anticipation of a panic attack, and are not obsessions (intrusive thoughts, images or impulses).
      •   The worry and/or physical symptoms experienced by a person with GAD cause significant distress or impairment in ability to function in social, occupational, or other important areas
      •   A person with GAD may experience another anxiety disorder, depression, or alcohol/substance abuse.

Who gets GAD?


      •      GAD often develops in childhood or adolescence, but can also begin in adulthood. Although it is common for GAD to develop following a stressful life event, not everyone who experiences stressful events will develop GAD. Prior to developing GAD, it is common for a person to have had a tendency to be a 'worrier' and to be overly concerned about how things will turn out and how they will cope.
      •   Besides stress and personality factors, other factors that may contribute to the development of GAD include biological (e.g., genes) and environmental (e.g., parenting style).
      •   GAD is experienced by 1.1% of Canadians (aged 15-64) over a 12-month period.

GAD vs. Normal Worry


     GAD is more than worry. Most people worry about things from time to time. But, people with GAD find that it affects their everyday life. So, they may try to control their worry by doing things like visiting doctors frequently, asking for reassurance, over preparing for any potential event, reminding others continuously about things, avoiding doing new things, or taking on new challenges or opportunities, because of their fear.


Treatment for GAD


     GAD is treatable! The best treatments involve learning about your symptoms, learning how to control those symptoms, and slowly (and gradually) practicing going into situations you fear (to teach yourself, slowly and gradually, that you can manage those situations). You can talk to your Family Doctor about getting a referral to a Clinical Psychologist or another mental health professional to learn to manage your worry. Or, you may be able to try our Online CBT course for GAD here.