What Is Generalized Anxiety?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD, is a chronic condition that leaves a person feeling anxious nearly all of the time.

Unlike other anxiety disorders, GAD is not usually connected to a specific event or stressful situation. Generalized anxiety symptoms can be mild to severe, often negatively impacting the patient’s quality of life.

Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers when it comes to the causes of GAD; however, there are likely environmental and genetic factors. A family history of GAD, prolonged exposure to stressful events, childhood trauma, or severely acute stressful situations, and drug use (including caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco) may play a role in its development. [i]

In this article, we will discuss what GAD stands for, what Generalized Anxiety Disorder is, and how to treat Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

For over 40 years, the Drake Institute has pioneered the use of neurofeedback therapy to address anxiety disorders, including GAD.

If you are interested in learning more about our drug-free approach and how it can help you, call us at 1-800-700-4233 or fill out the free contact form.



Symptoms Of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

GAD stands for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. It is a psychophysiological disorder, which means that symptoms could manifest both physically and emotionally.

Like other types of anxiety disorders, the signs of Generalized Anxiety Disorder may include muscle tension, digestive difficulties, headaches, sleep disturbances, or feelings of fear and worry.

Below is a breakdown of some common GAD symptoms:

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

  • Digestive dysfunction such as irritable bowel
  • Easily fatigued
  • Restlessness
  • Muscle tensions in the neck and shoulders
  • Somatic symptoms (sweating, nausea, diarrhea)
  • Frequent urination
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding or clenching)
  • Headaches
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Palpitations (heart pounding)
  • Tachycardia (elevated heart rate)
  • High blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Hyperventilating
  • Trembling

 Anxiety Symptoms in Adults

  • Disturbed sleep (falling or staying asleep)
  • Irritability
  • Feeling on edge
  • Emotional over-reactivity
  • Easily fatigued
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Debilitating fear
  • Excessive worrying
  • Anticipating the worst
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Social avoidance
  • Low self-image
  • Self-doubt
  • Inner restlessness
  • Phobias
  • Substance abuse (self-medicating symptoms)

 Anxiety Symptoms in Children

  • Stomach aches
  • Chronic indigestion
  • Clinging behavior
  • Fear of separation from parents
  • Refusal to go to school
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Temper tantrums
  • Fear and avoidance of social situations
  • Headaches
  • Fear of sleeping alone
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Nightmares
  • Sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD inattentive presentation

What Causes Generalized Anxiety?

Medical experts have not determined a definite cause of Generalized Anxiety, but they have identified certain genetic and environmental factors that could play a role in its development.

Indeed, it’s likely a combination of these elements that contributes to the development of the characteristics of Generalized Anxiety Disorder in both children and adults.


Some experts believe that genetics play a role in the presence of GAD. In other words, a family history of anxiety could mean that this tendency is passed on. So far, scientists have not identified a gene or mutation that leads to anxiety disorders, but a family history of GAD could indicate a higher likelihood of it developing. [ii]

Brain Chemistry

Another likely cause of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is brain chemistry and functioning. In the brain, chemicals called neurotransmitters are responsible for sending signals and information from one neuron to the next. If the networks in the brain involved with emotional regulation are functioning poorly then it could increase the risk of anxiety. This can be identified on a qEEG brain map.

Environmental Factors

Generalized Anxiety Disorder could also arise from environmental factors. As noted above, GAD is different from normal anxiety in that it is chronic, persistent, and not usually related to a single event or trigger.

However, traumatic events may worsen GAD symptoms. Trauma, abuse, losing a loved one, or other significant life change could lead the condition to worsen. [iii]

Diagnostic Criteria For Generalized Anxiety

Anxiety and stress disorders present differently in each patient. There are a few indicators that may help in diagnosis.

In general, the anxiety experienced is intrusive, disrupts daily life, and is often centered on ordinary situations instead of a traumatic event or phobia. It can contribute to uncomfortable physical symptoms that cause further distress, and the patient tends to lose the feeling of emotional well-being and safety.

According to the DSM-V, there are specific diagnostic criteria for Generalized Anxiety:

  • Anxiety is present more often than not for at least six months and is about more than one event or situation.
  • The anxiety or worry is difficult to control, causes significant distress, and is unrelated to another mental disorder.
  • It is associated with a few physical symptoms, like restlessness, difficulty concentrating, sleep issues, and others.
  • The anxiety is unrelated to substance use or abuse, including medications. [iv]

Generalized Anxiety Treatment

Generalized Anxiety treatment is similar to treatment of other types of anxiety disorders and usually includes psychotherapy and medication.

Therapy is a valuable tool in helping patients understand why they may be experiencing anxiety. It can help identify triggers and provide methods of managing and reducing the frequency and strength of symptoms.

Prescription medication is another standard treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The most common medications to manage anxiety include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and sometimes benzodiazepines. Antipsychotic tranquilizers have also been used.

Finding medication to reduce symptoms is often clinical trial and error.

How The Drake Institute Treats Generalized Anxiety

For more than 40 years, the Drake Institute has used neurofeedback therapy to help patients achieve a higher quality of life by reducing the symptoms of GAD.  

Our treatments are designed for each specific patient’s needs and are non-drug and non-invasive.

Our protocols rely on a self-generated process, which means that the patient is in control of the entire process. What’s more, patients can continue to practice these skills of psychophysiologic self-regulation that they have learned during neurofeedback training for their lifetime. Many patients prefer this over-dependence on medication.

Brain Mapping

Brain mapping is a way for our clinical staff to obtain an inside look at a patient’s brain activity.

To start, 19 sensors are placed around the scalp to measure brainwave activity.

The results are recorded and compared to an FDA-registered reference normative database of asymptomatic, same-age individuals.

This comparison can reveal dysregulated networks in the patient’s brain linked to anxiety symptoms, and once these networks are identified, our Medical Director can create a custom-tailored neurofeedback treatment protocol.  


The Drake Institute’s neurofeedback treatment protocol is designed specifically to address each patient’s needs, depending on their symptoms, brain map findings, and more.  

As a non-invasive and non-pharmacological treatment for a variety of disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), neurofeedback is safe and effective.

And as mentioned, neurofeedback therapy helps patients gain the self-regulatory skills needed to help them improve brain activity toward healthier patterns that can reduce symptoms.


In some cases, neuromodulation may be used as part of the treatment protocol.

Neurostimulation technology gently stimulates the patient’s brain towards healthier activity and more functionally desired patterns to reduce anxiety.

Contact The Drake Institute Today!

Generalized Anxiety Disorder can become overwhelming if left untreated. Physical and mental symptoms even increase the anxiety and worry, causing the anxiety cycle to continue.

If you or someone you know has GAD and would like to learn more about how the Drake Institute can help you reduce symptoms and achieve an improved quality of life, call today at 800-700-4233 or fill out the free consultation form.


[i] https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad

[ii] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/generalized-anxiety-disorder

[iii] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20360803

[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519704/table/ch3.t15/

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“David F. Velkoff, M.D., our Medical Director and co-founder, supervises all evaluation procedures and treatment programs. He is recognized as a physician pioneer in using biofeedback, qEEG brain mapping, neurofeedback, and neuromodulation in the treatment of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and stress related illnesses including anxiety, depression, insomnia, and high blood pressure. Dr. David Velkoff earned his Master’s degree in Psychology from the California State University at Los Angeles in 1975, and his Doctor of Medicine degree from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta in 1976. This was followed by Dr. Velkoff completing his internship in Obstetrics and Gynecology with an elective in Neurology at the University of California Medical Center in Irvine. He then shifted his specialty to Neurophysical Medicine and received his initial training in biofeedback/neurofeedback in Neurophysical Medicine from the leading doctors in the world in biofeedback at the renown Menninger Clinic in Topeka, Kansas. In 1980, he co-founded the Drake Institute of Neurophysical Medicine. Seeking to better understand the link between illness and the mind, Dr. Velkoff served as the clinical director of an international research study on psychoneuroimmunology with the UCLA School of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, and the Pasteur Institute in Paris. This was a follow-up study to an earlier clinical collaborative effort with UCLA School of Medicine demonstrating how the Drake Institute's stress treatment resulted in improved immune functioning of natural killer cell activity. Dr. Velkoff served as one of the founding associate editors of the scientific publication, Journal of Neurotherapy. He has been an invited guest lecturer at Los Angeles Children's Hospital, UCLA, Cedars Sinai Medical Center-Thalians Mental Health Center, St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, California, and CHADD. He has been a medical consultant in Neurophysical Medicine to CNN, National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, Univision, and PBS.”

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