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Generalized Anxiety Disorder Centre for Addiction
and Mental Health

 Health Info A-Z


Generalized Anxiety Disorder

What is generalized an​xiety disorder?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one type of Anxiety Disorder. GAD involves “excessive anxiety and worry occurring more days than not for a period of at least six months, about a number of events or activities (such as work or school performance)” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p. 222). It is characterized by “difficulty in controlling worry and at least three associated physical symptoms (e.g., muscle tension, sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating).”

What are the signs & symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder?

Cognitive symptoms include thoughts such as:

    • “Something is going to go wrong.”
    • “This worry is going to make me nuts."
    • "I need to be sure nothing bad is going to happen."

    Physical symptoms include:
      • muscle tension
      • feeling keyed up or on edge
      • restlessness, irritability
      • sleep disturbance.

      Behavioural symptoms include:​

        • avoiding news, newspapers
        • restricting involvement in activities due to excessive worries about what could happen.
        • excessive reassurance seeking or over-preparing.

        What are the causes & risk factors of generalized anxiety disorder?

        It is not known exactly why some people develop an anxiety disorder, although research suggests that various factors may be involved. Like most mental health problems, anxiety disorders appear to be caused by a combination of biological and psychological factors and challenging life experiences.

        What is the treatment for generalized anxiety disorder?

        Many psychological treatments, such as relaxation training, meditation, biofeedback and stress management, can help with generalized anxiety. Many people with generalized anxiety also benefit from supportive counselling or family therapy. However, research shows that the most effective form of treatment for generalized anxiety is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Medications have also been proven effective, and many people receive CBT and medication in combination.

        Reference: American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.), Washington, DC: Author.

        Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2016 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

        Where can I find help, treatment and support for generalized anxiety disorder?

        Treatment from CAMH 

        Help for Families from CAMH

        Ontario Mental Health Helpline (open 24/7 for treatment anywhere in Ontario)

        Where can I find more information from CAMH related to generalized anxiety disorder? 

        Anxiety: An Information Guide (CAMH online store)

        Anxiety Disorder 101 (online tutorial) Please Note:Your pop-up blocker must be turned off to view this tutorial

        Understanding Psychiatric Medication: Antidepressants

        Understanding Psychiatric Medication: Benzodiazepines 

        Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy: An Information Guide (CAMH online store)

        What Older Adults, Their Families and Friends Need to Know about… Anxiety (PDF)​​​​​​​​

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