Generalized Anxiety

When Worry Takes Over: Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Worry is a part of being human, but for some youth, it’s like a shadow that follows them everywhere, whispering about a hundred things that could go wrong. This isn’t just fretting over what to wear to school or an upcoming exam; this is worry that’s so persistent and gripping it’s like an unwelcome guest that won’t leave. When this level of anxiety starts affecting health, work, and the joy of everyday life, it might be generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

GAD isn’t choosy; it can affect anyone, from the student who can’t shake off concerns about grades to the athlete who can’t perform because they are paralyzed by all the “what ifs” running through their mind to the busy parent worrying endlessly about their child’s future and their anxieties. It’s seen in about 3% to 5% of kids, slightly more in teenagers, and up to 5% of adults. And for reasons we’re still exploring, women, including teenage women, are more likely to find themselves wrestling with this kind of anxiety.

Here’s a more down-to-earth look at the signs that your child might be experiencing GAD:

  • Non-Stop Worrying: It’s when the mind is a storm of “what ifs?” and worries that stick around far longer than they should about all kinds of things – from everyday tasks like being on time for practice to big life decisions such as where to apply to college.
  • The ‘Off’ Switch is Broken: Being unable to control this worry is at the core of generalized anxiety, where nothing you say or do can reassure your child that things will work out or calm down for them.
  • Restlessness: It’s a feeling of being constantly on edge, as if you need to be doing something every moment but you can’t decide what to do, so you’re just stuck.
  • Worn Out For No Reason: Even if their day wasn’t physically demanding, your child might feel like they’ve just run a marathon. It’s exhausting to be anxious all day long.
  • Mind in a Fog: Your teen may describe their thoughts as being hazy or bouncing all over the place, making it hard to pay attention or concentrate.
  • Tense Muscles: You might notice your child clenching their jaw or shoulders tensing up, or hear about physical aches and complaints that their body is on edge and stressed.
  • Troubled Sleep: Those worries don’t take a break at night, leading to tossing and turning, possibly insomnia and much restlessness.
  • Irritability: Your child might snap at others, not because they’re angry with them, but because their nerves are frayed from the constant worry.


Despite its prevalence, GAD often goes unrecognized – many people don’t seek help, either because they don’t know that their constant worrying is a treatable disorder or because the thought of reaching out is another source of worry. But it’s important to know that GAD is manageable, and no one must face it alone. There are ways to turn down the volume on worry and strategies to help your child regain control of their thoughts and their life. It starts with understanding what they’re dealing with and then taking that first step towards getting support. Let’s start a conversation about how we can help you and your child take back control from this worry.

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