1. Anxiety significantly interferes with your lifeExperiencing anxiety is a normal part of being human that is related to survival and fear. However, when this regularly interferes with your ability to complete daily tasks and have a satisfying life it can be a sign of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).
2. You worry about a wide range of thingsAgain, everyone has some worry that is a normal part of living. Some people have a few major things that they worry about, and others have more short-term worries about current events and anticipation. If you worry very often and about a wide range of things that sometimes can feel limitless, then it can be a sign of GAD. Read this for some strategies on controlling your worry.
3. You are rarely able to control your anxietyFor many people, worrying and anxiety can take them over for shorter durations and is relieved when stressors relax. Other times they find ways to cope that can make living more tolerable and enjoyable. However, some people have significant difficulty controlling their anxiety even with the best coping strategies at hand. If this is true for you, it may be a sign of GAD.
4. Anxiety is out of proportion to stressorsA key feature of anxiety disorders is that the anxiety is often out of proportion to the stressor. If the stressor really only has mild consequences for a person but she reacts anxiously in a way that is as if it has enormous consequences, then this would be a disproportionate response. If this happens regularly, it may be a sign of GAD.
5. You have other symptomsDuring periods of stress many people have physical symptoms like headaches and muscle tension. However, some people exist in chronic states of these, develop digestive problems, have difficulty sleeping, have weight change, or a variety of other more unique issues. Having physical symptoms that are persistent can be a sign of GAD.
If a combination of these sounds like you, then it could be important to find someone to help with treatment. You can read this for formal diagnostic criteria, and this piece for types of treatment professionals.Additionally, click here for an article on coping with GAD.
Source: American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed., Text Revision). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.