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  • Writer's pictureInterval Health

What is GAD?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is one of the most common mental health issues in the world. However, so many people have misconceptions about what GAD really looks like or what the common symptoms are. 

Having a more concrete idea of what GAD really is and how it can affect someone’s life can make a big difference. Not only will you be able to spot the symptoms in yourself, but you’ll be able to reach out for help sooner and start taking control of your thoughts rather than letting anxiety define you.

Let’s take a closer look at generalized anxiety disorder, some of the common symptoms, and what you can do to fight back against it. 

Some Anxiety is Normal

There’s no question that we’re living in a stressful time. People have busy schedules, and technology moves at a fast pace that’s hard to keep up with. We still feel the effects of a global pandemic, and the economy feels like a rollercoaster.

So, it’s safe to say that a little bit of stress and anxiety is normal. But it’s important to understand what’s normal and what goes beyond everyday stress. You should consider seeing a professional if your fears and worries are starting to interfere with everyday life. You should also consider it a red flag if you’re worried you might have other mental health issues beyond anxiety. 

What Are the Symptoms of GAD?

The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can vary from person to person. The most obvious is excessive worry — especially when that worry is out of proportion to the event or situation. Other common symptoms include: 

  • Overthinking

  • Perceiving almost everything as a threat

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Restlessness

  • Indecisiveness

Anxiety disorder is a mental health condition. But, it can manifest itself with many physical symptoms, too. Things like fatigue, muscle tension, stomach issues, and difficulty sleeping are all common physical manifestations of GAD. 

Keep in mind that GAD can show up differently depending on your age. For example, teenagers with GAD might lack confidence or need approval. Kids might want a lot of reassurance, or they might want to avoid going to school or spending time with friends. 

What Causes GAD?

There isn’t a singular cause of generalized anxiety disorder. Rather, it’s typically a combination of things that might trigger it. Some people are more at risk, depending on their personality, life experiences, or even genetics. 

For instance, if you tend to be a timid person or a people-pleaser, you might be at a greater risk of developing GAD. If you’ve experienced trauma or have been in situations that have impacted your self-esteem, you might also be more prone to anxious thoughts. Some studies also show it can run in families. That doesn’t necessarily mean if your parents have anxiety, you will, too, but you might be more susceptible to it. 

What Can You Do?

If there’s a silver lining to anxiety being so common, it’s that there are many ways to manage and treat it. Unfortunately, preventing it isn’t 100% possible. But reducing the negative effects of your symptoms doesn’t have to feel so overwhelming. 

Self-care is one of the best ways to manage GAD symptoms. Things like getting enough sleep and exercising each day can reduce stress and improve your mood. Journaling, meditating, and practicing mindfulness can also help you to stay present and keep anxious thoughts at bay, reminding you who is in control. 

Most importantly, don’t hesitate to reach out for professional help. Anxiety can be easy to manage with the right support, but it’s not something you should tackle on your own. Therapy can help you discover the underlying cause(s) of your anxiety as well as your triggers while offering safe and effective ways to overcome it. 


Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.


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