Pin Me

Spotlight on the Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

written by: renasherwood • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 3/27/2011

According to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, 3.1% of America’s total population suffers from generalized anxiety disorder or GAD. Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder are physical and emotional. The patient is in a constant state of alarm and is unable to relax.

  • slide 1 of 4

    Emotional Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    People with GAD are worried and agitated constantly – even if nothing in their immediate circumstance is threatening them. A person is often aware that they are far more upset than they should be, but cannot shut off their worries or any resulting physical symptoms caused by what's on their mind.

    Emotional symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include but are not limited to:

    • Constant irritability to the point of losing all sense of humor
    • Startling easily, even from familiar sights, sounds or smells
    • Over-exaggeration of problems or bad news, even if the problems and bad news are not related to the person with GAD
    • Difficulty concentrating, taking directions or learning any new tasks, even very simple new tasks

    Some people with GAD may claim they fear “losing control.” The definition of control differs for each person. For some, they fear losing control of what they say and start swearing or otherwise speaking in a way society would disapprove of. For others, they may fear loss of bowel or bladder control. This can lead to feelings of helplessness, which adds to the misery of their overall condition.

  • slide 2 of 4

    Physical Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

    A person with GAD may suffer from one or more of the following physical symptoms. These are the most common physical symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder but are not experienced by all GAD sufferers. Some people may even show additional symptoms such as a strange taste in the mouth that is unique to them.

    • Breaking out into a sudden sweat
    • Inability to relax the body, even during non-stressful situations
    • Breathlessness and difficulty breathing
    • Dizziness or feeling faint
    • Uncontrollable trembling or shivering
    • Headache or migraine
    • Abdominal problems such as cramps, nausea or vomiting
    • Sudden diarrhea
    • Increased sensation of needing to urinate, even if little urine is produced
    • Insomnia

    A patient usually needs to show one or more physical symptoms along with emotional symptoms for at least six months before a doctor or therapist is confident to diagnose GAD. These symptoms are caused by the body initiating the fight or flight response and not being able to stop it, according to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety (Alpha Books; 2006.)

  • slide 3 of 4

    Avoidance

    The physical and emotional symptoms of GAD are so distressing for the individual that they will do everything they can to avoid any situation they think will trigger symptoms. At first, there may be a few places or situations that a person will avoid – such as driving over suspension bridges or traveling alone - but gradually the list of places to be avoided lengthens to the point where someone with GAD may be too frightened and crippled by symptoms to go to work or school. Eventually a person who doesn't receive treatment can become housebound.

  • slide 4 of 4

    Sources

    Morey, Bodie and Kim T. Mueser, Ph.D. The Family Intervention Guide to Mental Illness. New Harbinger Publications; 2007.

    Johnston, Joni E., Psy.D. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Controlling Anxiety. Alpha Books; 2006.

    Anxiety Disorders Association of America. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad