Is GAD a Serious Mental Illness?

Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2022
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
While medications and therapy cannot cure a generalized anxiety disorder, treatment can help improve symptoms of GAD.

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a serious mental illness. Anxiety interferes with daily activities. People with an anxiety disorder may respond to fear and dread and show physical signs, such as rapid heartbeat and sweating.

It is normal to have anxiety, but persistent anxiety could be a sign of some serious condition where the person may not be able to focus on daily activities and find finishing tasks difficult.

Anxiety is sometimes beneficial; it helps identify dangerous situations and focus on the condition. A person with GAD may often have other anxiety disorders, such as phobias, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, clinical depression, and drug or alcohol addiction.

An anxiety disorder occurs when:

  • Anxiety interferes with daily activities
  • Triggered by emotions, causing an overreaction
  • There is difficulty controlling the responses to certain situations

What are the types of anxiety disorders?

Types of anxiety disorders include:

What causes generalized anxiety disorder?

The exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is not known, but the following may contribute to the development of GAD:

  • Genetics: Some studies report that family history plays a major role in developing GAD, which means the condition is passed in the families. However, no specific genes that cause anxiety are identified.
  • Brain chemistry: GAD is linked to various nerve cell pathways that are associated with the ability to think and process emotions. If the pathways connecting to the brain do not function well, it may result in anxiety or mood disturbances. Medications and therapies that work on these neurotransmitters may improve the signaling and symptoms, such as anxiety and depression.
  • Environmental factors: Mental and physical trauma, stress, the death of loved ones, separation or relationship problems, and changing schools or jobs may cause GAD. The condition may deteriorate as a result of severe stress and the abrupt withdrawal of substances, such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.

What are the symptoms of anxiety?

The general symptoms of anxiety disorders include:

  • Physical symptoms
  • Mental symptoms
    • Nightmares
    • Continuous thoughts of unpleasant flashbacks or traumatic experiences
    • Panic, fear, and discomfort
    • Uneasiness
  • Behavioral symptoms

Symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder

  • Excessive worry or tension
  • Getting into unrealistic views on certain issues
  • Getting tired easily
  • Irritability or crankiness


Panic attacks are repeated attacks of fear that can last for several minutes. See Answer

How is generalized anxiety disorder diagnosed?

No diagnostic tests are required to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The doctor will ask for the symptoms and may refer to a mental therapist, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist. Sometimes, few tests are done to rule out any general conditions associated with GAD.

The following health conditions are associated with GAD:

How is generalized anxiety disorder treated?

Medications and a few therapies cannot cure generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) completely but may improve its symptoms.

Here are the treatment methods used to treat GAD:

Cognitive behavioral therapy

A type of talk therapy that is used to treat symptoms of depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, and other mental illnesses. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps get rid of negative thoughts and improves the quality of life. Many studies reported that cognitive behavioral therapy is more effective than any other psychological therapy or medication.


  • Antianxiety medications: Benzodiazepines may lower anxiety, panic, and worry symptoms. They work quite fast and help increase their tolerance, making them less effective over time. Your healthcare provider may prescribe anti-anxiety medicines along with antidepressants for short periods.
  • Beta-blockers: Treat hypertension (increased blood pressure). They can improve symptoms, such as shaking, trembling, and rapid heartbeat.
  • Antidepressants: Improve the symptoms of anxiety disorders. They influence how the brain uses a few chemicals to improve mood swings and stress. Antidepressants may take longer to work effectively.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/16/2022
Image Source: Getty image

Anxiety disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Anxiety Disorders.