Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 5/30/2017

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can vary in severity and may not be the same in all individuals suffering from anxiety. Common symptoms include

  • restlessness,
  • nervousness,
  • worry,
  • difficulty with concentration,
  • inability to let go of worries,
  • feeling "on edge,"
  • feeling as if the mind is "blank,"
  • sleep disturbances,
  • muscle tension, and
  • fatigue.

Anxiety symptoms can be associated with specific fears or phobias. There may be a tendency to avoid the object or situation that induces anxiety. Difficulty trusting others, startling easily, hypervigilance (excessive attention to staying safe), and nightmares are other possible symptoms. Severe symptoms are typical of those experienced in a panic attack and include palpitations, fast heart rate, chest pain, a sense of impending doom, shortness of breath, trembling, sweating palms, dizziness, feeling detached from oneself, nausea, and fear of losing control are all symptoms that may occur with a panic attack.

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs together with other mental health conditions. Sometimes, symptoms of one disorder may overlap with those of another disorder, or the disorders may be co-morbid (both present at the same time). Examples of conditions with symptoms that may overlap with those of GAD include obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social anxiety disorder and social phobia, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Causes of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

The exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown, but it is likely that a combination of factors are involved in the cause. These could include both genetic (inherited) and environmental factors.


United States. National Institute of Mental Health. "Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)." March 2016. <>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/30/2017
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