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Generalised Anxiety Disorder occurs when one’s anxiety and worry about people or events are out of proportion to the actual circumstance.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder can affect you physically and often presents with another disorder, like Depression. Anxiety is a normal emotion and usually occurs as a reaction to stress or danger. However, anxiety about everyday occurrences and people that is constant, and which impacts one’s ability to function, is a mental illness and treatment is recommended to gain back your independence.

What are the signs & symptoms 
of Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

  • Pain or fear
  • Feelings of doom, dread or danger
  • Sleep problems
  • Physical agitation
  • Cold, sweaty, numb, or tingling hands or feet
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hyperventilation
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Tense muscles
  • Dizziness
  • Thinking about a problem repeatedly
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Avoidance of people or places
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All of Papillon’s residents follow their own Individual Treatment Plan that is used to guide their progress through the three Rehabilitation Blocks: Self-System Development; Trauma Processing; and Reintegration. The result is a personalised and holistic approach to each of our residents’ mental recovery with the goal of sustainable reintegration at the end of their 3-month stay.
Generalised Anxiety Disorder is usually treated with a combination of medication and therapy with a trained mental health professional. The aim is to help identify how every resident’s emotions affect their behaviour. Cognitive behavioural therapy, in particular, teaches one how to turn negative thoughts and behaviours into positive ones.
Treatments typically involve a combination of psychotherapy, medication, and social support.
At Papillon, GAD is treated primarily with psychotherapy. In some cases, medication may be prescribed in conjunction with other treatments to manage specific symptoms, such as anxiety. In cases where a patient is under the care of more than one professional, it is imperative for the professionals to work as a team on the patients’ treatment plans. As the treatment plan may take time, it is also important for friends and family to be patient and supportive during their loved one’s treatment.
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Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a common and pervasive mental health condition characterised by persistent, excessive, and uncontrollable worry about everyday things.

It affects millions of people worldwide, impacting their daily lives and overall well-being. Read on for more info on various facets of GAD, from its symptoms and causes to its diagnosis and treatment options.


What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Pain or Fear

People with GAD often experience a persistent sense of fear or worry. This can manifest as physical pain, particularly muscle tension or headaches. The fear is often disproportionate to the situation and can be difficult to control.

Feelings of Doom, Dread, or Danger

Individuals with GAD may perceive situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t. They may have a general sense that something bad is about to happen, causing intense worry.

Sleep Problems

Trouble sleeping is a common symptom of GAD. This could include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing restless and unsatisfying sleep.

Physical Agitation

This can manifest as restlessness, feeling keyed up or on edge. It’s a response to the body’s fight-or-flight mechanism being activated.

Cold, Sweaty, Numb, or Tingling Hands or Feet

These symptoms can be a result of the body’s physical response to stress and anxiety.

Shortness of Breath

Anxiety can cause changes in breathing patterns, leading to feelings of shortness of breath. This is part of the body’s fight-or-flight response to perceived threats.


This is rapid or deep breathing that can occur during periods of anxiety. It can lead to an imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the body, causing dizziness, light-headedness, weakness, or confusion.

Heart Palpitations

Anxiety can cause the heart to beat faster, leading to palpitations. These can feel like the heart is racing, fluttering, pounding, or skipping beats.

Dry Mouth

Anxiety can cause changes in salivation, leading to a dry mouth. This is due to the body’s response to the fight-or-flight mechanism.


This can be a physical symptom of anxiety, possibly due to the body’s response to stress and the release of adrenaline.

Tense Muscles

Muscle tension or aches are common physical symptoms of GAD. This is a physical manifestation of the body’s response to stress and anxiety.


This can be a result of hyperventilation or changes in blood pressure due to the body’s response to anxiety.

Thinking About a Problem Repeatedly

People with GAD often engage in persistent worrying or overthinking about various issues. This can include overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes.

Inability to Concentrate

Difficulty concentrating or feeling like the mind goes blank is a common symptom of GAD. This can be a result of the mind being preoccupied with worries and fears.

Avoidance of People or Places

People with GAD may start to avoid situations or places that trigger their anxiety. This is a coping mechanism to try to reduce their symptoms.


Generalised Anxiety Disorder Causes and Pre-Dispositions

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a complex condition that is influenced by a variety of factors, among which are:

Genetic Factors

GAD has a strong genetic component. Recent genetic studies suggest that approximately 33% of the risk of developing GAD is hereditary. Certain genes have been connected to the development of the disorder. A person can have a genetic vulnerability to developing GAD if certain genetic markers have been passed onto them.

Brain Structure

The limbic system, a collection of brain structures involved in the regulation of many of our basic emotional reactions, plays a role in GAD. The amygdala, in particular, is involved in the automatic fear response, as well as in the integration of memory and emotion. Imaging studies of people diagnosed with GAD show elevated amygdala activity during the processing of negative emotions.

Environmental Factors

A variety of environmental factors can increase the likelihood of anxiety. For example, a person’s family composition, their cultural and religious upbringing, and many other childhood experiences can influence anxiety levels. Traumatic experiences, such as abuse, divorce, bullying, or violence in childhood or adolescence are also associated with the onset of the disorder.

Life Experiences

Stressful life events, like natural disasters, can trigger GAD. Ongoing stressors, such as abusive relationships or toxic work environments, can also increase the risk.

Risk Factors

Certain factors may increase the risk of developing GAD. These include being female (GAD is twice as common in women than in men), having a comorbid anxiety disorder, and having a family history of anxiety disorders, depression, or other psychiatric disorders. Personality traits such as being sensitive, emotional, or having an inability to tolerate frustration can also increase the risk.

Substance Abuse

Prolonged use of certain substances, such as benzodiazepines and alcohol, can trigger GAD.

It’s important to note that these factors can interact in complex ways, and not everyone with these risk factors will develop GAD.


Myths About Generalised Anxiety Disorder


Myth: People with GAD blow everything out of proportion

This myth may stem from a misunderstanding of the nature of GAD, as people may perceive the worries of someone with GAD as being overblown or unnecessary.


For someone experiencing GAD, the worry is difficult or impossible to control. It’s not about being dramatic; it’s a symptom of the disorder. For someone experiencing this condition, the worry is difficult or impossible to control.


Myth: Because it’s generalised, GAD isn’t that bad

The term “generalised” might lead people to believe that the disorder is mild or less severe than other anxiety disorders.


GAD can be quite severe and can negatively impact a person’s life. Diagnosis of the disorder requires the presence of physical symptoms, such as fatigue, restlessness, difficulty concentrating, muscle tension, sleep issues.


Myth: People with GAD fake panic attacks to get attention

This myth likely arises from a lack of understanding about the nature of panic attacks and the stigma associated with mental health disorders.


Panic attacks are very real and can be incredibly distressing for the person experiencing them. While panic disorder and GAD are different conditions, they are not mutually exclusive, and people with panic disorder are not faking these attacks for attention.


Myth: Generalised anxiety disorder is rare

Mental health disorders are often underreported due to stigma, leading to a perception that they are less common than they actually are.


 GAD is relatively common.


Early Warning Signs of Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Early warning signs of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can often be subtle and may overlap with normal worry and stress. However, they tend to be more persistent and can interfere with daily life. Here are some early warning signs:

  • Uncontrollable Fear or Worry: This is often one of the first signs of GAD. You may find yourself constantly worrying about different aspects of your life, such as work, health, or relationships.
  • Feeling Constantly on Edge: You may feel restless or unable to relax. This can manifest as a constant feeling of being on edge or keyed up.
  • Problems with Concentration or Focus: Difficulty concentrating or finding that your mind often goes blank could be an early sign of GAD.
  • Feeling Agitated or Irritable: You may find yourself feeling irritable or easily annoyed.
  • Inability to Get a Full Night’s Sleep: Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or restless and unsatisfying sleep can be early signs of GAD.
  • Persistent Muscle Tension: You may notice that your muscles feel tense or that you’re experiencing frequent headaches.
  • Frequent Stomach Aches: Gastrointestinal problems, such as stomach aches or irritable bowel syndrome, can also be early signs of GAD.


Negative Symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder

Negative symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) refer to the absence or reduction of normal behaviours, like in the following examples:

  • People with GAD may avoid social situations due to their anxiety. This can lead to a decrease in normal social interactions.
  • The constant worry and fear associated with GAD can make it difficult to concentrate. This can lead to a decrease in productivity at work or school.
  • Individuals with GAD may avoid activities or situations that they fear will trigger their anxiety. This can result in a reduction of normal activities, such as going to the grocery store or attending social events.
  • People with GAD often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • The constant worry and fear can make it difficult for individuals with GAD to enjoy life. They may find it hard to relax or enjoy activities that they used to find pleasurable.
  • People with GAD may neglect their physical health due to their preoccupation with worry.


How Generalised Anxiety Disorder is Diagnosed

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is diagnosed by medical professionals such as doctors and psychiatrists through these steps:

  1. A doctor may perform a physical exam to look for signs that the anxiety might be linked to medications or an underlying medical condition.
  2. Blood or urine tests or other tests may be ordered if a medical condition is suspected.
  3. The doctor or mental health professional will ask detailed questions about symptoms and medical history.
  4. Psychological Questionnaires are used to help determine a diagnosis.
  5. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, provides criteria for diagnosing GAD.

6. Evaluation of Symptoms as anxiety and worry should be accompanied by at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms: edginess or restlessness, tiring easily, impaired concentration, irritability, increased muscle aches or soreness, difficulty sleeping.

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