Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or fear. It's a normal feeling when a loved one is ill or a project you are working on is late.
When that anxiety spills over to everyday problems, or when it occurs every day, you could have an anxiety disorder, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) says.
One of the most common anxiety disorders is called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). People with GAD tend to worry constantly. They worry about their finances, their health, their jobs, world events, and the future. Their worry is often out of proportion to reality.
Although GAD affects a person’s mental state, it also can cause these physical symptoms:
Restlessness and irritability
Headaches, stomachaches, diarrhea
Trouble falling or staying asleep
Being easily startled
Brain chemistry, environmental stresses, and other factors contribute to the development of chronic anxiety, the NIMH says.
Some research also suggests that a family history of the condition can make it more likely a person will develop GAD. Some studies show that traumatic and stressful events—such as abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce, or job loss—can bring on GAD in vulnerable people. Alcohol abuse and drug addiction also can bring on or worsen anxiety.
A health care provider or mental health professional makes a diagnosis of GAD based on the symptoms, and how much they interfere with home and work.
A combination of medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy can often successfully treat GAD.
© 2014 Main Line Health