Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)


Generalized anxiety involves ongoing and excessive worry about everyday events or activities occurring within an extended period of time, and is out of proportion to those events or activities. Children and youth with generalized anxiety disorder are typically very self-conscious; feel tense, and have a strong need for reassurance. Symptoms can include:

  • muscle tensiongad
  • trembling
  • shortness of breath
  • fast heartbeat
  • dry mouth
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • irritability
  • loss of sleep
  • not being able to concentrate

Individuals are typically diagnosed with generalized anxiety when feelings of excessive anxiety and worry, about several events and activities, are present for the majority of days of a 6 month period. Individuals find it difficult to control the feelings of anxiety and worry and experience additional physical symptoms, which may include restlessness, fatigue, concentration difficulties, irritability, muscle tension, and/or sleep disturbances (Stein, 2004). These symptoms interfere with an individuals’ ability to work, engage in social activities, and other important areas of their life (e.g., family, hobbies). The physician, psychiatrist or psychologist also needs to rule out other conditions that may be causing the symptoms of anxiety (e.g., substance abuse, another mental health diagnosis).

Stein, D. (Ed.) (2004). Clinical manual of anxiety disorders. Washington: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.