Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

You might feel anxiety while you turn on the television- by hearing about the people losing lives, the downfall of the economy, and natural disasters. Meanwhile, you might be thinking about your job, illness and some other matter which makes you anxious and stressed. This is natural to feel. The anxiety of this kind is common but when the same anxiety, worry, and nervousness becomes persistent and stays with you for long, it then becomes a disorder known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Under this condition, a person becomes unrealistically tense, worried and fearful for a long-term and these symptoms may come and go.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Sometimes a person even feels anxious without any definite reason. Therefore, if you are having the above-mentioned characteristics, it is good to visit a psychotherapist for its early diagnosis because clinically it is reported that GAD usually occurs along with other psychiatric conditions. Clinical researches depict that about the two-third population in the world, having generalized anxiety disorder also suffer from major depression, panic disorders, alcohol dependence or substance use disorders, respectively. Moreover, GAD might also have an effect on cognition, thought-processes and on our thinking as such people do think about potential misfortune without any specific reason.


Symptoms of GAD

Most of the people worry about several things in their lives but the people suffering from generalized anxiety disorder have a much higher level of worry than normal, which remains constant. These people are well aware of their condition but they can’t shake off the worries and constant anxiety they feel. Therefore, they can’t help their negative thoughts and feel embarrassed to address them. The symptoms come on slowly through the childhood and adulthood but some event can trigger the condition more to occur. Events such as death of a dear one, car accident, fewer grades or relationship problems can worsen the condition making the symptoms more obvious. The obvious mental symptoms of this disorder include:

  • Constant worrying:  Persistent or constant worrying about a certain reason or without any reason.
  • Overthinking and negative thoughts: Over thinking about a certain problem and having negative thoughts about the outcomes of certain decisions in life.
  • Indecisive: Fear of making wrong decisions.
  • Threatened situations: Taking events as threatening even if they are not.
  • Restlessness: Feeling of constant worry and restlessness and inability to relax.
  • Difficulty in concentrating: Difficulty concentrating and feeling that the mind is all blank.
  • Can’t let go of worry: People have the inability to let go of a worry. Although try their best, but cannot do that.

Physical symptoms may include nausea, trouble in falling asleep, trembling, sweating, nervousness, muscle tension and muscle aches and irritability.

These symptoms may come and go and a person concerns and worries change from one reason to another. Feeling concerned about loved ones and their safety and unnecessary worries about the situation which are not controllable make a person more anxious and restless. The worries shift from one concern to another and may come and go, and can also change with age and time, respectively.

Similarly, children and teenagers can also have excessive worries due to the causes like low grades, the safety of family members, earthquakes etc. Child and teen suffering from disorder may have:

  • Low self-confidence
  • Social anxieties
  • Stomach and muscle aches
  • Difficulties in making decisions as they always get double-minded

Generalized anxiety disorder differs from panic disorders as with a panic disorder, a person cannot perform his daily tasks. However, in this disorder, a person can function easily in his daily routine chores. However, if the symptoms get worse, a person may become unable to function properly due to excessive worries and anxiousness.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder Causes:

Particular causes of the disorder are unknown but various factors play a major role:

Genetic makeup: Some people have an anxious personality as it runs in their family. The genetic makeup (hereditary material from one’s parents) causes the anxiousness transferred to the offsprings.

Stress: A major stress which has occurred in life can trigger this condition.

Traumas: Childhood traumas like the death of a parent or abuse may make a person become anxious especially when he enters the adulthood. These stressful conditions remain with the person to make him worried and anxious later in life and for a long-term.

Brain structure and anxiety:

The brain is composed of two complex circuits. One circuit goes into the cerebral cortex which is used for decision making and thinking and is the outer part of the brain. The other circuit extends into the part called amygdala that is involved in emotional processing. Amygdala is responsible for a person’s certain response to the situation, his emotions and also monitors body reactions to the certain environment. Amygdala responses fast in any condition which transfers the signal to the hypothalamus lying at the base of the brain. This in turn activates the hormones, causes tension in muscles and makes the body ready for flight or any reaction. This system activates first before the cerebral cortex system.

The amygdala also performs its function in combination with other brain structures to save other emotional memories involving the frightful events. In people suffering from GAD, the amygdala becomes so sensitive that it starts overreacting in various situations, which are not really threatening, and in turn, this triggers the brain causing an emergency stress response. With time, anxiety even gets attached to those situations which are not dangerous. In this way, the brain might create its own fears.

Certain genetic causes also stimulate GAD. A gene 5-HTT is involved in regulating the neurotransmitter serotonin. Neurotransmitters norepinephrine and Gama amino-butyric acid (GABA) are also involved in causing anxiety. Norepinephrine and serotonin govern mood, fears and stress response. Anti-anxiety drugs change the action of these neurotransmitters. Moreover, Life experiences can also increase the intensity of anxiety. Shy people are more prone to become anxious. Similarly, constant stress and worry can also lead to the state of hyperactive anxiety. Childhood traumas and tragic condition may persist and as a result, long-term anxiety conditions gets stimulated. Certain tragic conditions can also cause constant stress and worry which persist, causing GAD.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Addiction:

Many people suffering from GAD become dependent on alcohol and tranquilizers to calm themselves. People suffering from anxiety disorders are much likely to become addicts than normal people because they have low self-esteem which is the main factor to make them substance abuse. Many GAD sufferers become tolerant to their drugs used to treat their physical symptoms. GAD patients are advised not to take caffeine and counter medicine which might worsen the symptoms.

Treatments for GAD:


The medicines mostly used for the treatment of generalized anxiety disorder are antidepressants like dual serotonin or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs).

Some fast acting drugs are:

Antidepressants: These medicines act on neurotransmitters present in several regions of the brain, which affect arousal, anxiety and mood. SSRIs recommended for GAD are sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), and citalopram (Celexa). The SNRIs duloxetine (Cymbalta) and venlafaxine (Effexor) are also effective. However, Antidepressants also have side effects including weight gain, sexual problems and insomnia.

Benzodiazepines: These drugs provide quick relief to anxiety disorders and have very few side effects. Some are drowsiness and loss of coordination. If a person decides to stop taking benzodiazepines he should do it gradually by lowering the dose. This method reduces the risk of having symptoms like agitation, anxiety, and seizures.

Tricyclic antidepressants are another option. These drugs have severe uncomfortable side effects like blurred vision, constipation, dizziness, and trouble while urinating. Still, some people find tricyclics better suited to their anxiety instead of taking other medications.


Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most promising approach in psychotherapy to treat GAD.

CBT. In this treatment a cognitive behavioral therapist makes a person to recognize the situations which are not harmful, make them optimist to think about several situations and help them not to misinterpret the events happening in their lives. During CBT, patients are advised to have a diary to record and examine their feelings and thoughts that help them to relieve anxiety. The therapist urges patients to think positive and find good in every situation. The treatment involves problem-solving tests followed by brainstorming exercises to make them better and inculcate an optimistic approach to deal with life, in general.

Relaxation techniques: Applied relaxation techniques help patients become relaxed when they are in a stressed or anxious situation. This starts with controlling their rapid breathing. Patients learn to apply these techniques when they are in stressful.

Psychodynamic therapy: This therapy recognizes that early events affects the person psychologically and causes GAD. This treatment tracks down the events causing anxiety and is found to be effective in patients suffering from GAD.

Natural Remedies For Anxiety:


If you are suffering from anxiety, a cup of chamomile tea can help you calm down. A compound in chamomile called ‘Matricaria recutita’ binds to the brain receptors that lessen the anxiety. In one study, patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder took chamomile supplements for some weeks and the results showed that they had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms.

Green Tea (L-theanine)

Japanese monks used to meditate for hours, both relaxed and alert. One of the reasons might have been an amino acid called L-theanine in their green tea.
Research shows that this amino acid called L-theanine helps to decrease a rise in blood pressure and heart rate and studies have also found that it helps in reducing anxiety.

Lemon balm

Lemon balm is named after the Greek word for honey bee and is widely used to cause a reduction in anxiety and stress, and it also helps with sleep. Lemon balm is sold in the form of tea, tincture, and capsule.


Exercise is good for health and brain. A person who does regular exercise remains fit and free from worries and anxiety. It makes your self-esteem high and makes you feel healthier.


The aroma of lavender (Lavandula hybrida) serves as an “emotional” anti-inflammatory. In a study, patients suffering from generalized anxiety disorder were subjected to take a lavender pill and their anxiety symptoms were seen to get reduced.

Holding your breath

Inhale and exhale daily for 4-8 minutes. This practice can be done when you find yourself in a stressful situation. Doing so will releases your anxiety and calm you down. This seems to work because you cannot be anxious and breathe deeply at the same time. In this way, you will calm down by letting go of your anxiety, worries and you will only focus on deep breathing.

Eat something

You feel stressed when you are hungry and it is said to eat something quickly to relieve your stress. But beware, eat something healthy. A good diet is a key to reduce anxiety. Taking enough green vegetables, fruits, seafood, and meat can make you less stressful.

Eating breakfast

Don’t starve yourself for a whole day and remain anxious. Doctors urge people to must have breakfast as the whole day depends on it. Taking an egg in the morning makes you feel relaxed, as it is a direct source of choline. Decreased choline causes an increase in anxiety.

Eating Omega-3s

Fish oils are really good for the heart and they cause decrease in depression. Eating fish and fish oil can make you less anxious and it helps to elevate your mood. Fish oils are the good source of fatty acids and you know it is reported that people who take fish oils have less anxiety. Yay.

Learn to meditate

Mindfulness meditation is one of the best treatments to decrease anxiety. Psychologists recommend that mindful awareness calms you down even in a stressful situation. This ancient practice was also done by the monks to make them calm and relax.

Be optimistic

Think about yourself as a positive person. Try to shut down all the negative thoughts and stay positive in every kind of situation. Whenever you feel anxious or worried, go out and meet new people, have a cup of tea, take a deep breath and shut down all the negative thoughts.