Generalized anxiety

Description

Generalized anxiety is part of the large group of anxiety disorders.

It manifests itself as anxiety and the feeling of excessive worries related to events or activities of daily life (at work or school for example). A person with generalized anxiety has difficulty controlling their concerns and preventing their worrisome thoughts from interfering with the activities of their daily life. The intensity, duration or frequency of the anxiety is out of proportion. It is referred to as generalized anxiety disorder when the anxiety and worries have been present for at least six months.

A person with generalized anxiety experiences any of the following situations:

  • Worrying excessively and having great difficulty controlling it. For instance, fearing that their children had a road accident each time they go to school.
  • Feeling a lot of anxiety due to professional, financial and family responsibilities, without being able to step away and relax a little.

Generalized anxiety causes distress and has significant impact on people’s daily functioning. It usually affects their relationships and their family, social and professional activities.

Signs and symptoms

The anxiety is often accompanied by one or more of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Agitation or feeling overwhelmed
  • Tendency to tire easily
  • Irritability (tendency to get angry easily)
  • Disturbed sleep (difficult, interrupted or restless and unsatisfactory)
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory lapses
  • Blackouts

When to consult

Do not wait to be unable to conduct your usual activities to seek help. If you have signs or symptoms of an anxiety disorder, you can consult a resource in the field of anxiety disorders or mental health. You will find information, help and support there.

However, consult a doctor or another healthcare and social services professional if you experience one of the following situations:

  • You have been feeling severe anxiety for several months and you worry constantly about current or anticipated events.
  • You are experiencing distress.
  • Your physical and psychological symptoms prevent you from functioning normally and accomplishing your family, professional or social responsibilities.

The person you will meet can assess your needs and offer solutions to support you in the management of anxiety. To clarify the nature of your difficulties, they may suggest that you carry out a health exam or refer you to another professional for a more in-depth assessment. They will then discuss with you the different services or approaches that could meet your needs.

To find out how to access mental health care and services, go to the page Stepped mental health care and services.

General notice

Distress and suffering can be very severe for a person with anxiety and for their family and friends. If you have suicidal thoughts and fear for your safety or that of people around you, see the page Recognizing signs of distress and preventing suicide. You will find further information on help and resources available.

Care and services

There are treatments and services that are recognized as effective in supporting people with anxiety disorders. In particular, they relieve the symptoms and help them regain control of their lives and daily activities. The earlier a person consults, the better their prospects for recovery.

Proposed treatments may include psychosocial approaches, medication or a combination of both. For more information, see the section Care and services of the page Anxiety disorders.

Psychosocial interventions may include:

  • Self-care
  • Individual or group psychological education
  • Individual interventions offered by a professional (e.g.: social worker, psychoeducator, occupational therapist)
  • Psychotherapy
  • Self-help and support groups
  • Applied relaxation

To learn more about these treatments, visit the page Stepped mental health care and services.

Associated issues

Living with untreated generalized anxiety disorder can have several consequences for the person and their family and friends. Consult the page Anxious disorders to find out the issues associated with anxiety disorders.

Prejudice

People with anxiety disorders are sometimes victims of their own prejudices and those of society at large. These prejudices discourage people from seeking help or continuing their treatment. To find out more about prejudice, its consequences and how to fight it, go to the page Fighting the stigma surrounding mental disorders.

Mental health and prevention

It is not always possible to prevent the onset of generalized anxiety disorder. However, if you exhibit signs or symptoms associated with this disorder, there are ways to reduce symptoms and feel better.

Tips for promoting good mental health can help you change certain lifestyle habits. These changes can have a positive impact on your health and reduce or even eliminate some risk factors associated with the presence of mental disorders.

Risk factors

Generalized anxiety has no clear identified cause. Often, it is a combination of several factors that results in the onset of the signs and symptoms of generalized anxiety 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.

Help and resources

To find information and support resources or to obtain care or services for generalized anxiety, go to the page Finding mental health help and support resources.

Last update: October 28, 2019

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