What is Anxiety?

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a condition where you have excessive anxiety most days. If your anxiety makes you feel ill and tired, and affects your day-to-day life, you probably have GAD.

There is a big difference between normal, everyday worrying and the sort of worrying that happens with GAD. GAD is when you worry or feel anxious most of the time and these feelings last for at least six months. It is a real illness and, although there is no cure, it can be successfully treated. It is a long-term illness that can last for many years before it is diagnosed.

GAD is quite a common condition. About 1 in 50 people are affected by it at some time in their life. GAD often first develops in your 20s and is more common in women than men. It is often present with another mental, illness such as depression or panic disorder.


The exact cause of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is unknown, but it is thought to be linked to a number of factors including:

  • your genetic make-up. Some people have a more anxious personality than others which can run families,
  • a difficult childhood. People who have been abused or experienced a traumatic event as a youngster, such as the death of a parent or close friend, are more likely to be anxious when they become older, and
  • a major stressful experience. Those who have had a problematic familial or marital relationship, have been bullied or raped, or have survived a disaster are more likely to develop long-term anxiety.

Women are twice as likely as men to have an anxiety disorder. It is also more common if you are unemployed, a housewife or are separated, divorced or widowed. The chemical make-up in your brain may be another factor that contributes to the development of anxiety. Brain chemicals such as serotonin or noradrenaline affect your mood and thinking. GAD may be associated with altered levels of these chemicals.