Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) involves a core group of physical symptoms along with frequent and uncontrollable worries that are often irrationally intense. It can be difficult to diagnose GAD, as its severity and nature may dramatically vary from person to person. However, the following eleven symptoms are the most common, so if you experience two or more of these in a short period of time, then you should make an appointment with your doctor to discuss how to improve your quality of life by managing your anxiety more effectively.

  1. Restlessness and concentration problems:
 If you have GAD, you probably fidget quite often and find it hard to sit still for long periods. You may feel on edge, as though you cannot relax even when you are in a safe environment. In addition, concentration problems are common. It might be tough for you to focus on studying or working, and your short-term memory may be worse than it used to be.
  2. A sense of impending doom:
 Most sufferers of GAD regularly experience a crushing and acute sense that something bad is about to happen. This feeling is baseless, but it can crop up in perfectly normal circumstances. When it does, you will suddenly feel as though you are about to die (or about to be in some form of life-threatening danger).
  3. Experiencing fear before or during social events:
 While going out to dinner or attending a party should be an exciting and fun event, you might find that such invitations fill you with dread rather than pleasure. GAD sufferers commonly find that they are disproportionately concerned about how to dress, what to say, and how to act in social groups. Additionally, even if you are being treated with kindness and respect during a social outing, you may still experience an increased heart rate, sweaty hands, and the desire to leave as soon as possible.
  4. Feeling out of touch with reality:
 This symptom is sometimes called depersonalization, and it tends to make you feel as though you are in a waking dream. You may also experience dizziness and feel as though you are moving at a slightly different speed to everyone else.
  5. Irritability and impatience:
 You might snap at other people without thinking, and will probably find that you easily become annoyed by unexpected slowness. Most people with GAD also respond defensively when questioned about their anxiety, knowing that they have irrationally intense fears but feeling extremely embarrassed that an outsider has recognized this.
  6. Obsessing about physical sensations:
 Although GAD does not have to be associated with any particular phobias, sufferers are often hypochondriacs. This means that they live in a constant state of fear that something is wrong with their bodies. You might interpret every ache or pain as a symptom of cancer, or you may habitually check yourself for signs that you are having a stroke. This obsession with physical sensations can be especially difficult to live with, as it can create an unproductive loop. Unusual sensations cause feelings of anxiety, but suffering from anxiety can cause unusual sensations (therefore creating even more anxiety).
  7. Heart palpitations:
 Anxiety problems are often connected to a fast or irregular heartbeat. Even when your pulse rate is normal, you might notice that you are uncommonly aware of your own heart beating. However, it is important to note that you should always have a racing or irregular heartbeat investigated thoroughly (in order to make sure that you do not have a potentially dangerous heart condition).
  8. Excessive sweating:
 GAD is connected to frequent and uncomfortable episodes of sweating. These are usually accompanied by racing heart or particularly strong worries about your own well-being (whether social or physical).
  9. Stomach aches and diarrhea:
 Being constantly or frequently anxious can easily leave you with a malfunctioning digestive system. As a result, those who have GAD commonly experience intestinal cramping and loose stools.
  10. Being scared that you are being negatively evaluated:
 GAD sufferers often experience acute anxiety at the thought of making a fool of themselves in public, and so social situations are regularly perceived as dangerous chances to be ridiculed. You might even find that you feel uncomfortable just walking down the street, worrying that strangers you encounter are thinking that you are unattractive or poorly dressed.
  11. Poor quality of sleep:
 Finally, insomnia is a common symptom of GAD. In addition to have trouble sleeping, you might feel unrested even after a full eight hours of sleep.

Suffering from general anxiety disorder can be very upsetting and confusing, as it often involves periods of intense anxiety during which the cause is not readily identifiable. If you suspect that you might have an anxiety problem, see your doctor as soon as possible. You may be worried that you’ll be viewed as being over-dramatic, but you shouldn’t be. Doctors regularly see and treat people with anxiety issues. Your feelings and concerns will be extremely familiar to your doctor, and they will put you on the path towards managing your anxiety more effectively (using medication, therapy, or a combination of both).


Dupuy, J., & Ladouceur, R. (2008). Cognitive processes of generalized anxiety disorder in comorbid generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 22 (3), 505-514 DOI: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2007.05.010

Barrera, T., & Norton, P. (2009). Quality of life impairment in generalized anxiety disorder, social phobia, and panic disorder Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 23 (8), 1086-1090 DOI: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.07.011

Lawrence, A., & Brown, T. (2009). Differentiating Generalized Anxiety Disorder From Anxiety Disorder Not Otherwise Specified The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 197 (12), 879-886 DOI: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181c29992

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