What is Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience excessive anxiety and worry about many different events and activities. It is considered excessive because the intensity, duration, and frequency of the worry is disproportionate to the actual likelihood of the imagined negative event or outcome taking place. Excessive worry can interfere with a person’s ability to make decisions or do things efficiently and on time whether at home or at work. The worry takes up a lot of time and energy and creates a high degree of distress for the individual.


The prevalence rates for GAD range from 0.4% to 4.6% in a 12-month period. Females are 2x more likely than males to experience GAD. The prevalence for GAD peaks in midlife and reduces across the later years.

Signs and Symptoms

Common things that people with GAD worry about include finances, everyday routine life circumstances, job responsibilities, the health of family members, misfortune to their children, and other, often, minor things. Frequently, people with GAD will also experience restlessness, on edge, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and disturbed sleep. A person with GAD finds it very difficult to control their worry and it often interferes with other activities. People who avoid certain behaviours, who have negative affect (neuroticism), and frequently try to avoid things that might hurt them are at risk for developing generalized anxiety disorder.


Treatment for GAD will depend on the level of impairment it causes in a person’s life. The main treatments are psychotherapy and medication or a combination of both. Cognitive behavioural therapy is one of the most common treatments for GAD however other forms of psychotherapy can be useful as well. Medications that are used to treat GAD include antidepressants, anti anxiety medications like buspirone or benzodiazepines are often used to help calm the person and control the physiological symptoms caused by the worry.



Adapted from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Oxford Psychiatry Library): Michel Van Ameringen & Mark Pollack

Adapted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5

Video resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9mPwQTiMSj8