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Home > Patients & Visitors > Diseases & Conditions > Head > Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

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Generalised anxiety disorder is an excessive worry (generalised free-floating persistent anxiety) and feelings of apprehension about everyday events and problems, with symptoms of muscle and psychic tension, causing significant distress and/or functional impairment. Everyone feels anxious at times but if you are suffering from GAD, it means that you will also feel anxious at inappropriate times and that you are unable to control your worries.



All of us worry about things like health, money, or family problems at one time or another. But people with GAD are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry about them. They may be very anxious about just getting through the day. They think that things will always go badly. At times, worrying keeps people with GAD from doing everyday tasks. People with GAD may feel apprehensive and tense. These feelings may be experienced not as emotions but as physical symptoms such as muscle tension, butterflies or cramps in the stomach, trembling, a fast heartbeat and/or sweating. Other symptoms, which may vary among different individuals, include feeling constantly edgy, irritable or worried, having difficulty concentrating, or having trouble sleeping.


A summary of the most common symptoms is given below:

  • Worries about everyday things for at least six months, even if there is little or no reason to worry about them

          - Unable to control their constant worries

          - Knowing that they worry much more than they should

          - Not able to relax

          - Being irritable

          - Having difficulties concentrating

          - Easily startled

          - Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep


  • Common somatic symptoms are:

           - Feeling tired for no reason

           - Headaches

           - Muscle tension and aches

           - Having a hard time swallowing

           - Trembling or twitching

           - Sweating

           - Nausea

           - Feeling lightheaded

           - Feeling out of breath

           - Having to go to the bathroom a lot

           - Hot flashes



Many people have anxiety disorders; about 1 in 20 adults have GAD. Women are more at risk than men.


GAD develops slowly. It often starts during the time between childhood and middle age. Symptoms may get better or worse at different times, and often are worse during times of stress.


People with GAD may visit the doctor many times before they find out they have this disorder as they often ask their doctors to help them with certain symptoms of GAD, such as headaches or trouble falling asleep. It can take some time for doctors to be sure that a person has GAD.


When to seek medical advice

If your tension and worries are affecting your (quality of) life, it is time to consult a healthcare professional such as a Family Physician or a mental health professional.


Treatment and drugs (provided by NUH)

Doctors may prescribe medication to help relieve GAD. It is important to know that some of these medicines may take a few weeks to start working. In most states, only a medical doctor (a family doctor or psychiatrist) can prescribe the medications.


The kinds of medicines used to treat GAD are listed below. Some are used to treat other problems, such as depression, but are also helpful for GAD:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anti-anxiety medicines
  • Beta blockers


Another treatment option for people with GAD is psychotherapy, which will be provided by a licensed psychologist or by the psychiatrist. This treatment can help people with GAD feel less anxious and fearful. It will offer help to overcome avoidance by exposure, use of relaxation and control of hyperventilation. Education, on bodily responses, how they relate to anxiety, and how to modify thinking errors, is given. 


Appointment and Enquiry

In NUH, we run a specialised clinic for anxiety disorders. In this clinic, you can expect the latest evidence-based care for anxiety disorders. Anxiety workshops will also be provided on a regular basis. If needed, rating scales will be used to objectify your symptoms.  A psychologist and nurse are part of the team.


To make an appointment, call the NUH Neuroscience Clinic at 6772 4850.

For more information on anxiety disorders, visit the website of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America: http://www.adaa.org/