Feeling a little anxiety sometimes is very normal. However, you may have generalized anxiety disorder if you experience the following situations:
- You feel a level of anxiety that is disproportionate to the importance of events in question, meaning your worries are excessive and hard to control. For instance, fearing that your children have a road accident each time they go to school
- You feel a lot of anxiety due to your professional, financial and family responsibilities, without being able to step away and relax a little
Generalized anxiety disorder has significant impact on a person’s daily functioning. It affects their relationships and their family, social and professional activities.
Generalized anxiety disorder is part of the large group of anxiety disorders.
People with generalized anxiety disorder feel a high level of anxiety and worry nonstop during a period of at least 6 months. The anxiety is often accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Irritability (a tendency to get angry easily)
- Sleeping difficulties
- Excessive sweating
- Restlessness (severe agitation)
- Heart palpitations (heart beating abnormally fast)
- Muscle pain
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty breathing
- Numbness or tingling sensation
When to consult
Do not wait to be unable to conduct your usual activities in order to consult. If you have symptoms, you can consult certain organizations and associations working with anxiety disorders. They offer information, help and support.
However, see your family doctor or another health professional if you experience one of the following situations:
- You are in a state of exaggerated anxiety for several months and you worry constantly about real events or ones that you fear happening
- You are experiencing distress
- Your physical and psychological symptoms prevent you from functioning normally, accomplish your family, professional or social responsibilities
A health professional can assess whether you have a generalized anxiety disorder, or another health problem with similar symptoms. To be properly assessed, it could be necessary to conduct a physical exam or to prescribe laboratory tests. You will be proposed a treatment plan that is adapted to your needs.
See the Help and resources section to find resources available to you.
If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety, or that of people around you, see the Preventing suicide page. You will find further information on help and resources available.
Generalized anxiety disorder is an illness that can be treated. There are known treatments available to treat this disorder. Treatments allow people affected to regain control of their lives and daily activities. The earlier an affected person consults with a doctor, the better their chances of recovery.
In most cases, generalized anxiety disorder is treated effectively with psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of these 2 treatments.
Anxiety disorder experts usually recommend one of the following two therapies:
- Cognitive behavioural therapy, which aims to change the individual’s thoughts and problematic behaviour, and replaces them with thoughts and responses appropriate to reality. It helps understand the origins of the problem and to find solutions
- Analytically oriented psychotherapy, which aims to discover the root causes of psychological suffering. This therapy allows the person to become aware of the origins of their anxiety and to reduce their suffering
Experts also recommend that people affected join a support group to talk and help each other.
Different medicines can be used to treat generalized anxiety disorder, including antidepressants and anxiolytics. See the page with information on anxiety problems to learn more about:
The condition of someone with generalized anxiety disorder can worsen if it is not taken seriously. See the page with information on everything you need to know about anxiety disorder complications.
Protection and prevention
If you show symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, you can act now. Advice on maintaining good mental health will help you change certain lifestyle habits. These changes will help you eliminate factors that worsen or maintain your condition.
Generalized anxiety disorder has no single cause. A combination of several factors results in the onset of the disorder. These factors can be biological, hereditary, individual or environmental. See the anxiety disorder information page to learn more about the risk factors of anxiety disorders.
People at risk
More women than men are affected by generalized anxiety disorder.
It is usually at the beginning of adulthood that people consult a health professional for generalized anxiety disorder. They often report having always been anxious. These people also often consult family doctors or specialists for all kinds of physical pain.
Many people with generalized anxiety disorder are also afflicted with other mental problems, panic disorder and depression in particular.
Also, many people with generalized anxiety disorder have a problem with excessive consumption or alcohol or drug dependence.
Help and resources
Help and support resources
Resources are available for help and to obtain further information about generalized anxiety disorder. You can consult the anxiety disorder information page to find available resources for anxiety disorders.
Resources for care and services
To receive care or services, or to find a psychotherapist with whom you are comfortable, contact one of the following resources:
Last update: October 29, 2018