Health Zone

Generalised Anixety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder

There are some situations for most people where they feel anxious. It might be going for a driving test, sitting an exam, giving a presentation, or going for a job interview. Anxiety in these situations is normal, and can actually help a person feel alert and focused on the task. For people with generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) however, they feel worried and anxious on most days, not just at specific times during high stress situations.

Signs & symptoms


For a person with GAD they experience excessive anxiety and worry on most days for at least 6 months. The focus of this worry can vary around a number of aspects of daily life, such as work, study, family, health, finances and fearing the worst will happen. This worry is difficult to control and occur without a particular reason and can impact upon a person’s social life, work or study. To be diagnosed with GAD, using the DSM-5 (2013), a person also has to have three or more of following symptoms, for most days, for at least six months:

  • Feelings of restlessness, agitation, or on edge
  • Tire easily
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate or experiencing mind going blank
  • Irritability
  • Tense muscles
  • Difficulty getting or staying asleep, or having restless sleep and waking tired



Around 0.9% of adolescents and 2.9% of adults will experience GAD in a 12 month period. Females are twice as likely as males to develop GAD. The prevalence of GAD spikes at middle age and then reduces in later life.

Main treatments


  • Psychological approaches have been found to be effective in treating GAD. In particular Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is used, which addresses issues around worrying thoughts and puts in place some behavioural strategies such as relaxation techniques to reduce tension and level of anxiety. CBT challenges the worry thoughts, or develops strategies of letting them go, or to stop them from dominating ones thoughts. Using exposure therapy, if avoidance of situations occurs, this involves gradually confronting the situation or place that is being avoided. Psycho-education, which provides information about anxiety and gives an understanding as to why a person feels the physical symptoms caused by high anxiety, is also provided.
  • If symptoms are very severe medication may also be used. Some types of antidepressants are also useful in treating anxiety. This type of medication is preferred over the short acting and addictive drugs such as benzodiazepines.