When to get help for anxiety

Although feelings of anxiety at certain times are completely normal, see a GP if anxiety is affecting your daily life or causing you distress.

Your GP will ask about your symptoms and your worries, fears and emotions to find out if you could have GAD.

Find out more about diagnosing GAD

What causes generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)?

The exact cause of GAD is not fully understood, although it's likely that a combination of several factors plays a role.

Research has suggested that these may include:

  • overactivity in areas of the brain involved in emotions and behaviour
  • an imbalance of the brain chemicals serotonin and noradrenaline, which are involved in the control and regulation of mood
  • the genes you inherit from your parents – you're estimated to be 5 times more likely to develop GAD if you have a close relative with the condition
  • having a history of stressful or traumatic experiences, such as domestic violence, child abuse or bullying
  • having a painful long-term health condition, such as arthritis
  • having a history of drug or alcohol misuse

But many people develop GAD for no apparent reason.

Who's affected

GAD is a common condition, estimated to affect up to 5% of the UK population.

Slightly more women are affected than men, and the condition is more common in people from the ages of 35 to 59.

GAD can have a significant effect on your daily life, but several different treatments are available that can ease your symptoms.

These include:

With treatment, many people are able to control their anxiety levels. But some treatments may need to be continued for a long time and there may be periods when your symptoms worsen.