Generalized Anxiety Disorder

By: Stefanie Kubacki

Generalized anxiety disorder - symptoms & treatment

What is it?

Students with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have persistent and unrealistic fears about life and everyday activities. They may worry about everything, even if there is nothing to worry about. Worry is excessive and often uncontrollable for a student.

Students tend to be very hard on themselves. Even if they don't appear to have any worries they may constantly seek reassurance and approval from others. Watch below for more specific information on GAD.


Students with GAD can be hard to spot. They often worry about getting in trouble and therefore might turn out to be some of your best behaved students!


Be The Warrior Not The Worrier - Fighting Anxiety & Fear | Angela Ceberano | TEDxBedminster

Classroom Strategies

Instructional Strategies

  • Check in with the student for understanding at the beginning of a task. A student with GAD may be too afraid to ask for further clarification in front of the whole class, as it can be intimidating. A quick walk around the class and check in with different students could be all it takes to ease comfort or to allow a student to ask a question.
  • Teach relaxation techniques to the whole class, a body calmed=calmed thinking! This is something that can help the whole class focus. Breathing techniques, mediation and mindfulness can all be taught. The class can follow along with a Youtube video or sound recording. This allows for a calm transition.
  • Include movement/exercise breaks in lessons. This allows the release of pent up energy. This could be anything from a quick "body break" like taking a walk around the school or using a class wide "Go Noodle." Go Noodle is an interactive website that allows students to get up and move their bodies. Students can follow through different movements or have fun with Zumba.

Environmental Strategies

  • Use preferential seating. A student with GAD may prefer a certain spot in the class. This could be close to the door, teacher, front or back of the class. Have a discussion with the student to find out an area they are comfortable in.
  • Provide a time-out area. A time-out area could include different chairs or bean bags, silent reading books, a tent, etc. It is not an area that should be meant for a punishment, but a break students can take if they are getting overwhelmed or need a change of environment.
  • Provide stress reduction tools. The most common stress reduction tool is a stress ball. Something concrete or comforting that a student can use to help reduce their stress. It can be comforting to redirect of of the energy that may be causing a student anxiety onto something else.

Assessment Strategies

  • Offer an alternative location for tests/assignments. Students with GAD may not be able to concentrate in a busy classroom. Even with the quiet atmosphere a test day provides there is still scratching pencils and squeaky chairs. Some place like the library may provide a more calming atmosphere for the student.
  • Provide extra time. Try not to limit a student to just 1 hour or 1 period. It is okay if they want to stay in during a nutrition break or finish up their test while the rest of the class starts another lesson. Students may need this extra time to process the information in front of them.
  • Chunk the test into parts. This can be complete over one day or multiple days. You can give a student a test one question at a time, as they finish a question you can replace it with a new slip of paper with the next question. This allows the student to focus on one thing at a time. You can also break this up into different days, focusing a different question per day.

Check out the exercises below that can be done in your class or at home!

4-7-8 Breathing Exercise by GoZen
Body Scan Meditation by GoZen!
Mindfulness Exercises for Kids: Still Quiet Place (GoZen!)

Helpful Books, Apps and Software

Community resources to help teachers plan

Click on the links below to discover FREE resources to help teachers in their classroom:

Supporting Minds: An Educator's Guide to Promoting Students' Mental Health and Well-Being

Teaching Students with Mental Health Disorders: Resources for Teachers

Instructional, Environmental, and Assessment Strategies

Mental Health Teaching Units for Grades 7-12


Anxiety Disorders Association of America. (n.d.) Anxiety disorders in children.

Retrieved September 13, 2016 from

Cooley, M.L. (2007). Teaching kids with mental health and learning disorders in the regular classroom. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing

GoZen! Anxiety Relief for Children. (2012, December 4). 4-7-8 breathing exercise by GoZen. [VIdeo file]. Video posted to

GoZen! Anxiety Relief for Children. (2016, July 6). Body scan meditation by GoZen! [Video file]. Video posted to

GoZen! Anxiety Relief for Children. (2012, September 20) Mindfulness exercises for kids: Still quiet place. [Video file]. Video posted to

Ontario Teacher’s Federation. (n.d.). Anxiety management. Retrieved September 12,

2016 from

Osmosis. (2016, February 29). Generalized anxiety disorder - symptoms & treatment. [Video file]. Video posted to

TEDx Talks. (2015, June 16). Be the warrior not the worrier - fighting anxiety & fear. [Video file]. Video posted to