Generalised anxiety disorder in adults - Symptoms 

Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder 

Anxiety: Jo’s story

Jo has had social anxiety since her childhood. In this video, she describes how she went through childhood and adolescence accompanied by constant worries and fears and how this affected her ability to take part in social activities or form relationships. Find out what helped her to manage her anxiety as an adult.

Media last reviewed: 16/09/2014

Next review due: 16/09/2016

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) can affect you both physically and mentally.

How severe the symptoms are varies from person to person. Some people have only one or two symptoms, while others have many more.

You should see your GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or is causing you distress.

Psychological symptoms of GAD

GAD can cause a change in your behaviour and the way you think and feel about things, resulting in symptoms such as:

  • restlessness
  • a sense of dread
  • feeling constantly "on edge"
  • difficulty concentrating
  • irritability

Your symptoms may cause you to withdraw from social contact (seeing your family and friends) to avoid feelings of worry and dread.

You may also find going to work difficult and stressful and may take time off sick. These actions can make you worry even more about yourself and increase your lack of self-esteem.

Physical symptoms of GAD

GAD can also have a number of physical symptoms, including:

  • dizziness
  • tiredness
  • a noticeably strong, fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
  • muscle aches and tension
  • trembling or shaking
  • dry mouth
  • excessive sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • stomach ache
  • feeling sick
  • headache
  • pins and needles
  • difficulty falling or staying asleep (insomnia)

Anxiety triggers

If you are anxious as a result of a specific phobia or because of panic disorder, you will usually know what the cause is. For example, if you have claustrophobia (a fear of enclosed spaces), you know that being confined in a small space will trigger your anxiety.

However, if you have GAD, it may not always be clear what you are feeling anxious about. Not knowing what triggers your anxiety can intensify it and you may start to worry that there will be no solution.

Page last reviewed: 25/02/2014

Next review due: 25/02/2016


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The 9 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

suziface said on 10 October 2014

I think I hav eGads,so many tragic events have and are happening to me, I think when thingschange,I wil get better

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Drunkenoodle said on 09 September 2014

After living with Anxiety for a while now I can honestly say it's one of the single most dibilitating things out there. Making you never sure what's going on in your body, be it legit or otherwise, and then on top of that the racing thoughts, vivid imagery and goodness knows what else.

But after doing so, I've come to realize that there are a great deal of things that can lessen it drastically, and, in some cases perhaps let it pass. Personally what helps me is meditation, making sure to treat my body well with good food, rest (when possible), and exercise.

Writing about good things that happened that day also helps you to see through the nonsense that the mind creates, it doesn't matter how small the thing, so long as it's something.

As I sit here at my computer at around 2:25am, it's clear that anxiety may always crop up now and again, but don't forget that you aren't alone. And with a bit of self belief, and some push, things will get easier.

Don't give up!

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jwangsness said on 30 August 2014

Jo describes pretty much what I've gone through my entire life. I'm a senior and I've still got the very same GAD symptoms I've had since I was a child: all my muscles are so tight they spasm. My jaw is clenched and my stomach bloats up. The heart pounds and skips beats and I feel nauseous and light headed. Mornings are the worst. Once I get past noon I'm pretty good. Luckily I'm in pretty good general health, so I exercise a lot and sleep well. But I withdraw from social stuff, especially the older I get. Medications scare me, so I just go on the way I am and try to get over the humps. I love life and people and that's what keeps me going, but I feel guilty that I don't interact enough, or what I perceive as enough, with my family and friends. What medications help??? Any suggestions?

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AuraTodd said on 01 August 2014

I think I have this condition, how can I get my GP to confirm ot please? I don't want to go on pills or anything like that.

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Lawyerbabe said on 15 July 2014

It is great to know I am not alone in suffering anxiety. I have been bullied at work on and off for a number of years ,but after being off sick with stress I decided to take out a grievance against my boss. Since returning to work I have suffered anxiety on a daily basis. I am on anti-depressant medication which I have taken for some years. I have good and bad days, but find mornings a real struggle. I am still having problems at work and my father has been very ill. I am having counselling to help me cope.

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Wendiway said on 21 May 2014

It was great to hear Jo's story, I as a child wasn't told when I was going to a party my mum would just take me there, and I hated it my mum new of the worry it would create and I would get so upset. My siblings were fine would go no problem. even at a very young age I thought there was something wrong with me. even now my husband doesn't tell me we are going out until the day or day before as it spoils my week leading up to it as it takes over my thoughts. I panic inside when I hear friends at work organising nights out, and some will say I know you may not feel like going but your welcome to come along, which is nice. I feel like I'm weird sometimes as I don't know of anyone else like this, so hearing about Jo was a relief. I have a party to go to next Friday so my thoughts are now centred on it. I have propranolol for when I get migraines, my GP said to take if I feel anxious as I mentioned I get anxious to him but didn't go into detail. So I take it for a couple of days beforehand. My daughter isn't like me and loves social events of any kind thank goodness.

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Cazzaj80 said on 27 March 2014

I to have really bad anxiety find it hard to believe it's just anxiety I'm on proponolo once a day I have good and bad days feeling horrible today keep getting upset feel sick and lightheaded the doctor wants to put me on a mild anti depressants but don't like taking pills really :-( xx

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Cazzaj80 said on 27 March 2014

I to have been having really bad anxiety I just find it hard to believe it's just anxiety I'm on propanol once a day I have good days and bad my bad days are feeling off balance feeling sick not wanting to eat racing pulse and heart palpations some days I dread going out in case I have an anxiety attack or panic attack really hate feeling like this don't feel like me anymore

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Sarah2468 said on 09 March 2012

Up until now I've always felt like a freak for not being able to socialise as easily as everyone else seems to. Jo has described exactly how I feel, and I know that I need to get professional help and stop pretending that nothing is wrong. I'm 21 now and thankfully I had a very good teacher who picked up on this when I was about 7. At the time I had Selective Mutism which I had treatment for, but I to this day still don't feel comfortable in social situations. I think if it wasn't for my boyfriend I would probably have depression by now. I will definitely be going to see my GP next week. Thank you Jo : )

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