GAD Symptoms The Difference Between Normal Anxiety and GAD By Will Meek, PhD Will Meek, PhD Facebook Will Meek, PHD, is Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Brown University and has been in university counseling leadership since 2008. Learn about our editorial process Updated on December 04, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Daniel B. Block, MD Medically reviewed by Daniel B. Block, MD LinkedIn Twitter Daniel B. Block, MD, is an award-winning, board-certified psychiatrist who operates a private practice in Pennsylvania. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Hero Images / Getty Images Differentiating between normal everyday anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can be tricky. How do you know, especially if you are a little more anxious than others, whether or not your anxiety is significant enough to qualify as a disorder? Overview Many people feel anxious from time to time, especially during times of stress. However, when you worry excessively, so much so that it interferes with day-to-day activities, you might have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Some people develop GAD as a child while others do not see symptoms until they are an adult. Either way, living with GAD can last a long time. In many cases, it occurs along with other anxiety or mood disorders. GAD is around twice as common in women as in men. Because anxiety affects women at a greater rate, experts recommend routine anxiety screening for women and girls aged 13 and older. Anxiety can grow worse over time and have a serious impact on a person's ability to function normally, which is why treatment is so important. In most cases, it improves with medications and/or talk therapy. Making lifestyle changes, learning coping skills, and using relaxation techniques also can help. The Difference Between Normal Anxiety and GAD Symptoms of GAD GAD symptoms can include: Carrying every option in a situation all the way out to its possible negative conclusionDifficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind "goes blank"Difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisivenessDistress about making decisions for fear of making the wrong decisionInability to relax, restlessness, and feeling keyed up or on edgeInability to set aside or let go of a worryPersistent worrying or obsession with small or large concerns that's out of proportion to the impact of the eventWorrying about excessively worrying Physical signs and symptoms may include: Being easily startled Fatigue Headaches Irritability Memory problems Muscle tension or muscle aches Nausea, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome Sweating Trembling, feeling twitchy Trouble sleeping GAD Symptoms and Diagnosis Do You Have an Anxiety Disorder? The following is a brief guide to determining whether generalized anxiety disorder may be something that you are struggling with. 1. Anxiety Is Severe Although at times the anxiety that all people experience can be somewhat severe, a characteristic of GAD is that this anxiety is usually more intense and long-lasting. If you have more severe anxiety than most other people you know, then it may be more than "normal" anxiety. 2. Anxiety Is Disproportionate The experience of anxiety for most people is proportionate to the intensity of the situation. For example, if there was a minor anxiety-provoking situation, then the experience of anxiety is typically minor as well. People with GAD, on the other hand, tend to become more anxious than the situation appears to warrant. If you are someone who has more severe anxiety over “things that shouldn’t be a big deal,” it may be more than normal anxiety. How to Stop Worrying so Much 3. You Are Anxious About Everything When people experience normal anxiety, they tend to worry about things related to the anxiety-provoking situation or several other things that make them fearful. People with GAD tend to be described as "worrying about everything all the time.” If that describes you, it may be more than normal anxiety. 4. You Have No Control Over Anxiety Most people can reduce and control their anxiety through a variety of coping techniques and have the ability to calm themselves. However, people with GAD have significant difficulty finding relaxation, calm, and time away from their worries. If you have more difficulty than other people you know in controlling your anxiety, it may be more than normal anxiety. If you or a loved one are struggling with excessive anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. The Best Online Anxiety Support Groups 3 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. National Institute of Mental Health. Anxiety Disorders. Revised July 2018. Gregory KD, Chelmow D, Nelson HD, et al. Screening for anxiety in adolescent and adult women: A recommendation from the Women's Preventive Services Initiative. Ann Intern Med. 2020. doi:10.7326/M20-0580 Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Anxiety and Depression Association of America. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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