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Three Signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and How It's Treated

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mental disorder that makes people feel worried or nervous all of the time. Anxiety is a normal part of life, but people with GAD can’t control it even when there’s nothing to worry about. The constant anxiety can make it hard for people to stay focused and live a normal, everyday life.

The 3 major GAD symptoms

Not everyone with GAD feels the same symptoms. Some people with GAD might not even feel their symptoms all of the time. Symptoms can come and go or feel better and then get worse. Stress and getting physically ill can often bring out the worse symptoms.

GAD usually comes on slowly. Many people with GAD start to feel these symptoms as teenagers or young adults. The longer the disorder continues, the more risk these people have to get new or worse symptoms.

1. Worrying all the time

A lot of the time, people with GAD even know their anxiety is worse than it needs to be, but they can’t help it. They overly worry about everyday issues, like:

  • Their job and money.
  • Their family’s health.
  • Their own health.
  • Being late.
  • Doing everyday tasks, like chores.

Worrying is the biggest sign of GAD. When people worry too much, they can often develop physical illnesses and mental changes.

2. Physical changes

GAD really shows how important your mental health is to your physical health. People with GAD often see changes to their bodies, like:

  • Headaches.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Stomach aches and pains.
  • Trembling or twitching.
  • Sweating a lot.
  • Feeling light headed.
  • Feeling out of breath.
  • Having to go to the bathroom too much.
  • Having a hard time swallowing.

These body changes can make it hard for people to function. The symptoms can even add to the anxiety they feel.

3. Mental changes

After living with GAD, many people see their mental state change for the worse. These mental symptoms include:

  • Having a hard time relaxing.
  • Feeling tired all of the time.
  • Having a hard time concentrating.
  • Trouble falling and staying asleep.
  • Feeling annoyed or angry all of the time.
  • Being jumpy, or scared easily.

How to treat GAD

If you or someone you know feels like they might have GAD, talk to their medical doctor first. The doctor will give you an exam to be sure nothing physical is causing the symptoms. Once that is ruled out, they may send you to a mental health specialist like a psychiatrist, psychologist or counselor. The mental health specialist may try therapy, medicine, or a combination of both to help treat GAD.

Treatment may take a little while to work. Don’t give up. Try to live a healthy lifestyle to help your treatment work. Go for walks, eat healthy and try to get good sleep. Talk with your family and friends when times get tough.


Therapy is just talking out your feelings and issues. Talk therapy works to help people find out why they think the way they do. Talk therapy then tries to help that person change the emotion, thought, or behavior that is making the anxiety worse.

There are many different kinds of therapists who are all trained to help different people. If you want to try talk therapy, find a provider in the PerformCare network that’s right for you. You do not need a doctor’s approval.


A medical doctor or a psychiatrist might also prescribe you medicine to help your GAD. Doctors often suggest the same medicine that is used to treat depression.

They may also prescribe a sedative, or a medicine that makes people calm and helps sleep. Sedatives can be addicting, however, so doctors will usually only give short prescriptions for them.

All medicines run the risk of causing side effects. Talk to your doctor if you start to feel side effects from your medicine.

Whatever your doctor suggests, stick with it. GAD is treatable. With time, the right treatment, and effort, people who used to feel anxiety all of the time can move on and live healthy, happy lives.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health