Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder 

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.

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

Page last reviewed: 25/02/2014

Next review due: 25/02/2016