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What is too much anxiety called?

Mental Health Conditions: Depression and Anxiety

Depression is more than just feeling down or having a bad day. When a sad mood lasts for a long time and interferes with normal, everyday functioning, you may be depressed. Symptoms of depression include: 1

  • Feeling sad or anxious often or all the time
  • Not wanting to do activities that used to be fun
  • Feeling irritable‚ easily frustrated‚ or restless
  • Having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Waking up too early or sleeping too much
  • Eating more or less than usual or having no appetite
  • Experiencing aches, pains, headaches, or stomach problems that do not improve with treatment
  • Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions
  • Feeling tired‚ even after sleeping well
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Thinking about suicide or hurting yourself

The following information is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis of major depression and cannot take the place of seeing a mental health professional. If you think you are depressed‚ talk with your doctor or a mental health professional immediately. This is especially important if your symptoms are getting worse or affecting your daily activities.

What Causes Depression?

The exact cause of depression is unknown. It may be caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. 2 Everyone is different‚ but the following factors may increase a person’s chances of becoming depressed: 1

  • Having blood relatives who have had depression
  • Experiencing traumatic or stressful events, such as physical or sexual abuse, the death of a loved one, or financial problems
  • Going through a major life change‚ even if it was planned
  • Having a medical problem, such as cancer, stroke, or chronic pain
  • Taking certain medications. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about whether your medications might be making you feel depressed.
  • Using alcohol or drugs

Who Gets Depression?

In general‚ about 1 out of every 6 adults will have depression at some time in their life. 3 Depression affects about 16 million American adults every year. 4 Anyone can get depressed, and depression can happen at any age and in any type of person.

Many people who experience depression also have other mental health conditions. 1,5 Anxiety disorders often go hand in hand with depression. People who have anxiety disorders struggle with intense and uncontrollable feelings of anxiety, fear, worry, and/or panic. 1 These feelings can interfere with daily activities and may last for a long time.

What Is the Link Between Smoking and Mental Health Conditions?

Smoking is much more common among adults with mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, than in the general population. 6 About 3 out of every 10 cigarettes smoked by adults in the United States are smoked by persons with mental health conditions. 6 Why smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions is uncertain. More research is needed to determine this. No matter the cause‚ smoking is not a treatment for depression or anxiety. Getting help for your depression and anxiety and quitting smoking is the best way to feel better.

What Are the Treatments for Depression?

Many helpful treatments for depression are available. Treatment for depression can help reduce symptoms and shorten how long the depression lasts. Treatment can include getting therapy and/or taking medications. Your doctor or a qualified mental health professional can help you determine what treatment is best for you.

What prevents skunks from your yard?

On This Page

  • What Is Depression?
  • What Causes Depression?
  • Who Gets Depression?
  • What Is the Link Between Smoking and Mental Health Conditions?
  • What Are the Treatments for Depression?
  • Depression and Suicide: Getting Help in a Crisis
  • Additional Resources
  • References

Free Quitting Resources

  • Quit Smoking (En Español)
  • external icon (En Español )

Smartphone Apps/Text

  • Text QUITNOW to 333888—Message and data rates may apply
  • quitSTART app external icon —tips, information, and challenges to help you quit


  • 1-800-QUIT-NOW
  • 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (Español)
  • Asian Smokers’ Quitline external icon
    • 1-800-838-8917 (中文)
    • 1-800-556-5564 (한국어)
    • 1-800-778-8440 (Tiếng Việt)

    Free Quitting Resources

    • Quit Smoking (En Español)
    • external icon (En Español )

    Smartphone Apps/Text
    Text QUITNOW to 333888—Message and data rates may apply

    • 1-800-QUIT-NOW
    • 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (Español)
    • Asian Smokers’ Quitline external icon
      • 1-800-838-8917 (中文)
      • 1-800-556-5564 (한국어)
      • 1-800-778-8440 (Tiếng Việt)


      Rebecca M., age 57, struggled with depression and had a few wake-up calls as a smoker. She felt depressed and smoked cigarettes to help her cope with her feelings. The more Rebecca smoked, the harder it seemed to quit. Rebecca finally quit smoking after getting care for her depression and realizing that she had to take care of her own health. She now leads a new, smokefree life.

      “I quit smoking and I got care for my depression.”

      Today I start my quit journey. Free resources provided by

      • Therapy. Many people benefit from psychotherapy—also called therapy or counseling. 7,8 Most therapy lasts for a short time and focuses on thoughts‚ feelings‚ and issues that are happening in your life now. In some cases‚ understanding your past can help‚ but finding ways to address what is happening in your life now can help you cope and prepare you for challenges in the future.With therapy, you’ll work with your therapist to learn skills to help you cope with life, change behaviors that are causing problems‚ and find solutions. Do not feel shy or embarrassed about talking openly and honestly about your feelings and concerns. This is an important part of getting better.Some common goals of therapy include:
        • Getting healthier
        • Quitting smoking and stopping drug and alcohol use
        • Overcoming fears or insecurities
        • Coping with stress
        • Making sense of past painful events
        • Identifying things that worsen your depression
        • Having better relationships with family and friends
        • Understanding why something bothers you and creating a plan to deal with it
        • When taking these medications‚ it is important to follow the instructions on how much to take. Some people start to feel better a few days after starting the medication‚ but it can take up to 4 weeks to feel the most benefit. Antidepressants work well and are safe for most people‚ but it is still important to talk with your doctor if you have side effects. Side effects usually do not get in the way of daily life‚ and they often go away as your body adjusts to the medication.
        • Don’t stop taking an antidepressant without first talking to your doctor. Stopping your medicine suddenly can cause symptoms or worsen depression. Work with your doctor to safely adjust how much you take.
        • Some antidepressants may cause risks during pregnancy. Talk with your doctor if you are pregnant or might be pregnant, or if you are planning to become pregnant.
        • Antidepressants cannot solve all of your problems. If you notice that your mood is getting worse or if you have thoughts about hurting yourself‚ it is important to call your doctor right away.

        Quitting smoking will not interfere with your mental health treatment or make your depression worse. In fact, research shows that quitting smoking can actually improve your mental health in the long run. 9,10,11

        Depression and Suicide: Getting Help in a Crisis

        Some people who are depressed may think about hurting themselves or committing suicide (taking their own life). If you or someone you know is having thoughts about hurting themselves or committing suicide‚ please seek immediate help. The following resources can help:

        • Call or text the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
        • Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital emergency department for emergency medical treatment.
        • Call your mental health provider.
        • Get help from your primary doctor or other health care provider.
        • Reach out to a close friend or loved one.
        • Contact a minister, spiritual leader, or someone else in your faith community.

        Overview — Generalised anxiety disorder in adults

        Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life. For example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam, or having a medical test or job interview.

        During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.

        But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.

        Anxiety is the main symptom of several conditions, including:

        • panic disorder
        • phobias, such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia
        • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
        • social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

        The information in this section is about a specific condition called generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

        GAD is a long-term condition that causes you to feel anxious about a wide range of situations and issues, rather than 1 specific event.

        People with GAD feel anxious most days and often struggle to remember the last time they felt relaxed.

        As soon as 1 anxious thought is resolved, another may appear about a different issue.

        Symptoms of generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

        GAD can cause both psychological (mental) and physical symptoms.

        These vary from person to person, but can include:

        • feeling restless or worried
        • having trouble concentrating or sleeping
        • dizziness or heart palpitations

        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.

        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:

        • the genes you inherit from your parents
        • 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.

        More women are affected than men, and the condition is more common in people from the ages of 35 to 55.

        How generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is treated

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

        • talking therapies – you can get talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) on the NHS; you do not need a referral from a GP and you can refer yourself for talking therapies service in your area – read more about how to find an NHS talking therapies service
        • medication – such as a type of antidepressant called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)

        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.

        Self-help for generalised anxiety disorder (GAD)

        There are also many things you can do yourself to help reduce your anxiety, such as:

        • going on a self-help course
        • exercising regularly
        • stopping smoking
        • looking after your physical health

        Video: Anxiety

        In this video, a psychiatrist discusses the symptoms and treatments of anxiety.

        Media last reviewed: 4 October 2021
        Media review due: 4 October 2024

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        More in Generalised anxiety disorder in adults

        Page last reviewed: 5 October 2022
        Next review due: 5 October 2025

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        Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

        Gold US News badge; best Children's Hospital US News and World Report for the ninth year in a row; 2022-2023.

        Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive and uncontrollable worry about a variety of events. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as headaches, muscular tension, restlessness, heart palpitations, and stomach upset. Children and adolescents with GAD may worry excessively about their performance and competence at school or in sporting events, about personal safety and the safety of family members, or about natural disasters and future events.

        The difference between normal feelings of anxiety and the presence of generalized anxiety disorder is that children with GAD worry more often and more intensely than other children in the same circumstances. Children with GAD tend to worry about the same things as their non-anxious peers, but they do so in excess. These worries and associated symptoms cause significant distress and impair daily functioning. Children with GAD are often overly self-critical and avoid activities in which they feel that may not be able to perform perfectly. They also tend to seek frequent reassurance from caregivers, teachers, and others about their performance, although this reassurance provides only fleeting relief from their worries.

        GAD is relatively common disorder among children and adolescents. It begins gradually, often in childhood or adolescence, with symptoms that may worsen during times of stress. Worries may switch from one concern to another, and may change with time and age. GAD may result in significant academic, social, and familial impairment. If left untreated, the disorder may be chronic and predicative of adulthood anxiety and depression. However, early identification and effective management can help reduce the severity of symptoms. Psychotherapeutic approaches, including cognitive behavioral therapy, are among the most researched and promising treatments for childhood anxiety. In certain instances, medication, in combination with psychotherapy, may also recommended for treatment of generalized anxiety disorder.

        Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) | Symptoms & Causes

        What causes GAD?

        As with many other mental health conditions, the exact cause of generalized anxiety disorder is unknown but may be linked to:

        • Genetic factors: GAD may run in families. Just as a child can inherit parent’s brown hair, green eyes, and nearsightedness, a child can also inherit that parent’s tendency toward excessive anxiety. Current research suggests that one-third of the risk of experienced GAD is genetic.
        • Biological factors: The brain has special chemicals, called neurotransmitters, that send messages back and forth to control the way a person feels. Serotonin and dopamine are two important neurotransmitters that, when disrupted, can cause feelings of anxiety and depression. Researchers have also found that several parts of the brain are involved in fear and anxiety.
        • Temperament factors: A child whose temperament is timid or shy or who avoids anything dangerous may be more prone to generalized anxiety disorder than others are.
        • Environmental factors: A traumatic experience (such as a divorce, illness, or death in the family, or major events outside of the family) may also trigger the onset of an anxiety disorder. In addition, anxiety may be learned from family members and others who are noticeably stressed or anxious around a child. For example, a child whose parent displays perfectionist tendencies may become a perfectionist, too.

        What are the symptoms of GAD?

        All of us are born with the instinctive “fight or flight” response that helped our ancestors escape predators and other threats. When we are afraid, concerned, or stressed, the part of our brain responsible for the fight or flight response will generate the nervous, fearful sensation we call anxiety. While everyone experiences anxiety at times, children with anxiety disorders contend with excessive worrying that does not subside the way normal anxiety does.

        Children with generalized anxiety disorder experience excessive and uncontrollable worry about a number of events or activities. They feel anxious in multiple settings and are often unable to “put their worries aside” no matter how hard they try.

        Examples of common worries experienced by children with GAD include:

        • future events (“What’s going to happen to me when Mom and Dad die?”)
        • past behaviors and incidents (“I still feel sick when I remember tripping in front of the whole class last year and how everyone laughed at me”)
        • social acceptance (“What if my friends are only pretending to like me?”)
        • family matters («Now that Kathy’s parents are getting divorced, what if mine do too?”)
        • personal abilities (“Why can’t I climb the rope swing in gym class like everyone else?”)
        • perceived personal shortcomings (“I’m so dumb”)
        • school performance (“I’m feeling kind of confused in math class this semester. What if I fail?”)

        Children with GAD often worry about the same subjects as children who do not have an anxiety disorder. The difference is that for a child with GAD, there is no “on-off” switch for the worry: it is ever-present and so extreme that it interferes with the child’s ability to relax, concentrate, and enjoy activities.

        Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can vary. They may include:

        • restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge
        • apprehensiveness
        • being easily fatigued, especially at the end of the school day
        • irritability
        • trouble sleeping
        • difficulty concentrating or the feeling that your mind «goes blank»
        • difficulty handling uncertainty or indecisiveness
        • expecting the worst, even when there is no apparent reason for concern

        Physical signs and symptoms may include:

        • fatigue
        • muscle tension or muscle aches
        • trembling
        • twitching
        • sweating
        • nausea, diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome
        • headaches

        Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) | Diagnosis & Treatments

        How is GAD diagnosed?

        Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed by a mental health clinician who can help determine whether the symptoms your child is experiencing is related to an anxiety disorder or another medical condition. The mental health clinician (such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist, child psychologist, psychiatric social worker, or psychiatric nurse practitioner) will make the diagnosis following a comprehensive assessment, which includes a diagnostic with you and your child. During the assessment, parents are asked to talk about their child’s anxiety symptoms and related behavior. You will also be asked to give an overview of your child’s family history, medical history, social history, and social interactions. Sometimes parent or child questionnaires are used to help clarify the diagnosis.

        If my child is diagnosed with GAD, what happens next?

        After the comprehensive assessment, a mental health clinician will help explain your child’s condition and answer any questions you or your child may have. The next step is developing a mutually agreed-upon treatment plan that works for you, your child, and your family.

        How we treat generalized anxiety disorder

        If you suspect your child may have GAD, it is essential to speak with a qualified mental health professional as soon as possible. Children with GAD respond well to treatment that is administered by trained mental health clinicians. By closely working with the treatment team, you can help your child go on to enjoy an active and fulfilling life.

        Evidence-based treatments for GAD in children and adolescents includes cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a combination of medication and therapy. Here at Boston Children’s Hospital, medication is used in conjunction with therapy for treatment of GAD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants are currently first-line medications in the pharmacotherapy of anxiety disorders in children. These antidepressants are powerful anxiolytics with a broader spectrum that may improve comorbid affective disorders and symptoms of anxiety.

        What is the long-term outlook for a child with GAD?

        If left untreated, studies show that GAD is often a chronic illness with symptoms that tend to wax and wane across the lifespan. Earlier age of onset is also associated with greater risk for development of other anxiety and depressive disorders later in life.

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