Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam or having a medical test or job interview. During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.
However, some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily life.
Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including panic disorder, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder and social anxiety disorder (social phobia).
However, the information in this section is about a specific condition called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).
Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)
GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than one specific event.
People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed. GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms. These vary from person to person, but can include feeling restless or worried and having trouble concentrating or sleeping.
Although feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, you should see your therapist if anxiety is affecting your daily life or is causing you distress.
What causes GAD?
The exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, although it’s likely that a combination of several factors plays a role. Research has suggested these may include:
- Over activity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
- An imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
- The genes you inherit from your parents – you’re estimated to be five times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
- Having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
- Having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
- Having a history of drug or alcohol misuse
However, many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.