Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) involves persistent and excessive anxiety or worry about several events or activities occurring in one’s life. Such events can include being late for work, worrying about health, or even worry about worrying. People with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. In turn, this excessive fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of one’s life, such as social interactions, school, and work.


Signs and Symptoms of GAD

  • Persistent and excessive worry and anxiety about several events or activities (e.g. tests or deadlines) 
  • Physical symptoms such as: 
    • Feeling restless, wound-up, or on-edge
    • Being easily fatigued
    • Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank
    • Being irritable
    • Having muscle tension
    • Sleeping difficulties 
    • A formal diagnosis requires experiencing 3 of such symptoms for adults, and 1 for children
  • Distressing anxiety that is causing dysfunction in life

Unlike to Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), GAD involves having intense fear and anxiety towards a range of events and activities. These activities may also include social events, but such events are not the main concern of the individual.


Causes of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Genetic Basis 

  • Family history of GAD increases the likelihood 

Environmental Causes

  • Exposure to abuse/ bullying
  • Exposure to stressful event(s)
  • Past traumatic events


  • Differences in brain structure and connections 
  • Higher sensitivity to threat 
  • The prevalence of GAD in females is twice that of males


Forms of Treatment


Psychotherapy or “talk therapy” helps you learn how your emotions affect your behaviours. A therapist listens and talks to you about your thoughts and feelings and suggests ways to understand and manage them and your anxiety disorder.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a common form of psychotherapy that teaches people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to anxiety-producing and fearful objects and situations. 

CBT can help individuals increase tolerance to uncertainty and anxiety, and practice doing things they fear without using reassurance or habits they did previously to reduce the anxiety. For example, a teenager is worried about his school work and fears failing school. The therapist might have him complete his homework and having checked through only once and avoid asking for reassurance for a period of time. Over time, he will learn that the outcome of not checking so many times is not as bad as what he imagined would happen, and this could help reduce his anxiety around school work. 


Anti-anxiety medications (e.g. Lorazepam (Ativan)), as well as certain forms of anti-depressants (e.g. Sertraline (Zoloft), have been found to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. 

It is important to note that medication mainly provides relief from anxiety symptoms, as opposed to a cure from anxiety. One may also experience side effects from these medications or increased dependence on these medications to cope with the anxiety.