It is normal to feel anxious from time to time. We all have those moments when we feel like breaking down and screaming out loud. But if you are frequently anxious (say, for the past 6 months), and your anxiety disrupts your day-to-day work, it may well be time for you to seek professional help. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common chronic disorder characterized by long-lasting anxiety that is not focused on any one object or situation.


A diagnosis of GAD is made when a person has been excessively worried about an everyday problem for six months or more. A person may find they have problems making daily decisions and remembering commitments as a result of lack of concentration/preoccupation with worry. If symptoms of GAD are present, the doctor will begin an evaluation by asking questions about your medical history and performing a physical examination. Although there are no laboratory tests to specifically diagnose anxiety disorders, the doctor may use various tests to look for physical illness as the cause of the symptoms.


The exact cause of anxiety disorder is not known. But researchers believe the brain's neurotransmitters such as serotonin and norepinephrine may be involved. Risk factors include childhood adversity, worrying illnesses e.g. cancer, stress, financial instability, genetics etc. Studies have indicated that anxiety disorders are more likely among those with family history of anxiety disorders.


Anxiety disorder symptoms may include:

  • difficulty to fall or stay asleep
  • sexual dysfunction
  • feeling short of breath
  • feeling tense, fearful and irritable
  • difficulty to concentrate
  • general sense of fatigue and headache
  • depression: GAD is commonly diagnosed together with depression

Importance of treatment

Without treatment, it is easy for anxiety disorder to lead to:

  • depression
  • substance abuse
  • insomnia
  • digestive or bowel problems
  • headache
  • teeth grinding


There are various forms of treatments to relieve anxiety disorder symptoms e.g. medication, psychotherapy (to receive help from a mental health professional/counsellor). For instance, in cognitive-behavioral therapy, patients learn to recognize and change thought patterns and behaviors that lead to anxious feelings. This type of therapy helps limit distorted thinking by looking at worries more realistically. In addition, relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and biofeedback, may help to control the muscle tension that often accompanies GAD. To read more about other patients' experiences with GAD, visit: