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Anxiety – the signs & symptoms 

Understanding generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

Some people find it hard to control their worries and experience anxiety on a daily basis. This anxiety could be related to a number of conditions, but people who feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event, could be suffering from generalised anxiety disorder (GAD). 

This fact sheet provides information about generalised anxiety disorder, commonly known as GAD, in adults. 

What is generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)? 

GAD is a long term condition that causes people to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event. Symptoms of GAD can be both psychological and physical. 

Psychological symptoms of GAD can include:- 

  • feeling nervous regularly over an extended period 
  • difficulties in falling asleep 
  • bad dreams when asleep 
  • disturbed sleep, for example, waking up worrying 
  • feeling tense and uptight 
  • feelings of extreme frustration 
  • a sense of dread 
  • feeling tearful 
  • wanting to escape. 

Physical symptoms can include: 

  • trembling or shaking 
  • a pounding heartbeat or palpitations (an irregular heartbeat) 
  • feeling sick 
  • chest pains 
  • headaches 
  • sweating 
  • loss of appetite. 

Why do people become anxious 

According to Mind, no one knows exactly what causes anxiety problems. Anxiety conditions are not developed or caused by a single factor, there are normally a number of factors that play a role, including personality, difficult life experiences and physical health. Anxiety conditions may develop when one or more stressful events occur in a person’s life. Common triggers include:- 

  • workplace stress 
  • pregnancy and giving birth 
  • family and/or relationship problems 
  • major emotional shock following a traumatic event 
  • verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse 
  • bereavement 
  • drugs and medication. 

Chronic health conditions can also contribute to feelings of anxiety. These include health conditions such as:- 

  • diabetes 
  • asthma 
  • hypertension and heart disease. 

Getting a diagnosis  

The NHS recommends that if anxiety is affecting a person’s daily life or causing distress they should see their GP. The GP will need to understand the symptoms and circumstances so a correct diagnosis can be made.