Generalized Anxiety — Causes And Risk Factors

Those who endure Generalized Anxiety Disorder—commonly known as GAD—cannot control their worry over ordinary, day-to-day happenings. This condition is sometimes referred to as Chronic Anxiety Neurosis.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder isn’t the same as typical feelings of worry. For instance, it’s extremely common to worry about things like bills and work every now and then. However, a person suffering from GAD may experience uncontrollable worry over the same things multiple times a day for weeks at a time. Even if the person suffering from this disorder knows there is not a logical reason to worry, they still cannot control their anxiety.

Beyond that, their anxiety may switch from being focused on the day-to-day things of their own life to being focused on something minor that they cannot control, such as how dangerous a certain road is.

This extreme, impractical anxiety can be alarming and can also get in the way of simple things, like friendships and daily tasks.


Those suffering from GAD may suffer several symptoms, such as difficulty sleeping or concentrating, irritability and fatigue, headaches and stomach aches. They may also deal with shaking, a rapid heartbeat, sweating palms, and even alcohol and drug abuse.

How GAD is Different

Generalized Anxiety DisorderThough anxiety is a regular symptom of multiple mental health conditions, such as phobias and depression, GAD is different in multiple ways.

Those suffering from depression may feel excessive worry on occasion. Those living with phobias may experience anxiety over one certain thing. People with GAD, however, feel anxiety over many, many things over a long span of time—sometimes even more than six months.

Causes and Risk Factors

The causes and risk factors for Generalized Anxiety Disorder potentially include things such as a family history of anxiety, having suffered abuse in childhood, being exposed to stressful situations, and excessive use of things such as tobacco or caffeine. Based on research done by the Mayo Clinic, women are twice more likely to suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder than men (Mayo, 2011).

Do I Have Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

GAD is diagnosed by a mental health screening performed by doctors. Your doctor will first inquire about your anxiety, asking questions about the things you are worrying about and how long you have been experiencing worry. If you see a primary care physician first, they may refer you to a specialist such as a psychiatrist or a psychologist.

Additional medical tests may potentially be performed in order to diagnose whether or not there is a fundamental illness or a substance abuse issue resulting in the symptoms you are suffering from. According to the Mayo Clinic, anxiety can sometimes be coupled with gastro esophageal reflux disease, heart disease, menopause, and thyroid disorders (Mayo, 2011).

If the doctor indeed suspects that an underlying condition or a substance abuse issue is the cause of your anxiousness, they may call for more tests, such as blood, urine, or a gastric reflux test.


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

This includes meeting and talking with a mental health counselor on a normal basis. The purpose is to alter your thought process and actions. This is an approach that has experienced much success in accomplishing lasting change in many patients.

In these sessions, you will be taught how to be aware of and be in power of your anxious thoughts. You will also learn how to compose yourself when distressing thoughts begin to surface.

Doctors will often recommend prescription medication alongside therapy to best help treat GAD.


There are several type of medicines used to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder for both the short and long-term stages.

Short-term medications relieve some elements of the physical symptoms caused by anxiety, such as stomach cramping and muscle tension. These are referred to as anti-anxiety medicines. Some common medications are buspirone, alprazolam, lorazepam, and clonazepam.  These medications are potentially habit-forming and are meant for short-term use.

There are also medications referred to as anti-depressants for long-term use. Some common medications are bupropion, desvenlafaxine, sertraline, fluvoxamine, escitalopram, duloxetine, venlafaxine, and paroxetine. It may take a few weeks before these medications begin to work. They also have side effects including nausea and dry mouth, which inconvenience some people so much that they stop taking them.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

There is also a small but recognizable occurrence of an increase in suicidal thoughts and actions in teenagers when they first begin taking anti-depressants. If you are taking an anti-depressant, be sure to stay in communication with your doctor and let them know of any mood or thought changes that cause you to worry.


It is possible that your doctor may recommend both an anti-anxiety medication as well as an anti-depressant. If this is the case, you will most likely only take the anti-anxiety medication for a few weeks, or until your anti-depressant begins to work.

Lifestyle Changes

Many people have found relief by taking on certain lifestyle habits such as exercise, meditation, and getting plenty of sleep. Other practices that can help may include a healthy diet, avoiding stimulants, and communicating with a trusted friend about your anxiety.

Anxiety and Alcohol

Drinking alcohol can relieve feelings of anxiousness almost instantly, and because of this many people suffering from anxiety use alcohol to feel better. However, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America warns, “Alcohol can also increase anxiety, irritability, or depression a few hours later or the next day. Even moderate amounts of alcohol can affect one’s mood and anxiety level” (ADAA, 2011).

If you suspect that your drinking is causing problems with your basic, day-to-day life, speak with your doctor. Additionally, you can seek free support through Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

The Outlook

Most people who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder find that they can manage their symptoms with an arrangement of therapy, medication, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.