Handling Stress and Anxiety: Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


“I’m very good at worrying.” Greta said, “If they gave a prize for being the biggest worrier, I’d win for sure. ” Her family used to tease her about being a “worrywart,” but lately her anxiety was getting out of control: she couldn’t sleep, her heart raced, her stomach was often upset, and yesterday she’d nearly passed out from dizziness.


Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. It’s perfectly normal to worry about things on occasion and to even feel physical reactions in connection with the worry. Some people, however, worry so much and experience such intense physical symptoms associated with their worry that it becomes a real emotional handicap that prevents them from leading happy and healthy lives. These ‘worrywarts” may be suffering from a condition known as Generalized Anxiety Disorder -~ GAD.

GAD is characterized by two major components.  First is unrealistic or excessive worry or anxiety about a number of events or activities, such as possible misfortune to a loved one who is in no danger, or worrying about finances or job security for no good reason. In the case of children and adolescents, this disorder may take the form of anxiety and worry about academic, athletic, or social performance.

The second major component of GAD is a variety of mostly physical symptoms that are often present during periods of anxiety. These include feeling shaky; experiencing muscle discomfort; restlessness; and tiring easily. Other GAD symptoms involve difficulty breathing; rapid heart rate or palpitations; sweating or cold, clammy hands; dry mouth; dizziness or lightheadedness; gastrointestinal disturbances; hot flashes or chills; or frequent urination. The last group of GAD symptoms include; feeling keyed up or on edge; excessive jumpiness; concentration or memory difficulties; trouble sleeping; and irritability.

To qualify for a diagnosis of GAD, at least three of these symptoms must appear during periods of worry and the person must have been bothered by them more days than not for a period of at least six months.

Fortunately, most GAD sufferers can be helped by specific cognitive behavioral therapy methods. In some cases medication may also be helpful. Once again, our advice for dealing with this debilitating condition is simple:

• If the symptoms of GAD describe you, get professional help. 


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.


Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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