Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is one of the various forms of anxiety disorders. GAD is experienced when a person feels anxious, nervous or worried for most of the time over a period of at least 6 months, when they are not under a direct threat of any particular danger. Situations and events that commonly contribute to anxiety are usually based on details relating to finances, family, health, friendship problems, death, workplace issues, trying to maintain others’ happiness and not wanting to be judged.  Approximately 2.7% of adult Australians experience GAD, which is almost 1 in 33 people (APS, 2013).


Symptoms of the disorder differ from person to person, but for a person to be diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder they must find it difficult to control the worry and experience at least three of the following symptoms more often than not over a period of at least six months:

  • Feeling restless, keyed up or on edge
  • Poor concentration
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension or feeling tight
  • Fatigue or being easily fatigued
  • Sleep difficulty

Although the above symptoms are used to formally diagnose GAD, other symptoms are commonly found among those who sufferer from GAD such as:

  • A heightened worry about certain situations occurring
  • Feeling overwhelmed or trapped in ruminating thought
  • Feeling uneasy
  • Fear of death
  • Fear of not being in control
  • Racing thoughts
  • Agitation
  • Increased heart rate
  • Headaches
  • Racing thoughts

The cause of the Generalised Anxiety Disorder is not entirely understood, but can range from a number of factors which include genetic (family history, personality type) and environmental aspects (experiences in childhood, role models, traumatic and/or stressful events).

Generalised Anxiety Disorder usually begins in childhood or teen years, but it can also commence in adulthood.  It can be precipitated by traumatic or highly stressful events (though not everyone who experiences such events will develop GAD), or it can occur without any obvious life stressors.  People who also have a history of being consistently worried or distressed about how things will turn out can be susceptible to developing GAD.

A person who suffers from GAD can find it hard to function in different everyday life situations such as working efficiently in the work place or through study, experience difficulties maintaining concentration during conversations and being preoccupied with worry.  As the disorder can affect a person’s ability to function it is important for the sufferer to seek treatment.


Treatment methods used to support the management of GAD include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), group therapy and relaxation training.  All these treatment approaches aid people in learning how to lessen the affects of negative thoughts and in turn help to reduce the affects of GAD.  Other aspects of treatment may include psychoeducation to help sufferers understand how to better eat, sleep, relax and create some distance from their thoughts.  Using these aspects of treatment, a person can learn better coping strategies instead of feeling pushed around by their thoughts or worries.

If you require guidance or support with anxious thinking, consider speaking with a psychologist. To book an appointment, you can call us at (02) 6262 6157 or conveniently schedule an appointment online.

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