What is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

generalized anxiety disorder

Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is just what the name suggests: a psychological disorder that’s characterized by widespread, overwhelming and persistent feelings of anxiety.

Patients suffering from this condition are known to worry compulsively about all kinds of things, regardless of whether they’re big or small, real or imaginary problems. GAD patients worry about losing their job, developing a terminal disease, being mugged or deceived and about what other people think or don’t think.

More often than not, people suffering from this pathology also worry about losing control of their lives and losing grasp of their sanity due to their unwavering anxiousness. In short, people who are afflicted with this condition cannot help but live in a constant state of tension or anxiety, whether or not there’s a concrete and valid reason behind it..

Even in situations where GAD sufferers have valid reasons to worry about something, their worrying is often disproportionate to the actual cause, making trivial problems seem supremely challenging to deal with.

What causes Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Although there isn’t a clear consensus regarding the exact cause of GAD, most of the available peer-reviewed research indicates there are likely two main factors:biological and environmental.

These factors sometimes seem to reinforce and interact with one another in complex ways that vary from patient to patient.

People who develop this pathology usually have previous history of GAD in their family and/or they are affected with external circumstances which have been known to associate with this condition.

According to researchers Wittchen and Hoyer (1) the incidence of GAD increases with age, and women are two times more susceptible to this condition. Moreover, certain factors have been identified which seem to correlate with developing generalized anxiety disorder, such as being separated, widowed or divorced, being unemployed or being a house-wife.

The same study also indicates that variables such as income level, education, religious association and urbanism levels do not seem to bare a significant causality towards the development of GAD. The following chart illustrates the incidence of this condition across different age groups, divided between sexes:

Do you have Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Prevalence of Generalised Anxiety Disorder GAD

The DSM-IV-TR is the latest revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This book comprises guidelines that most psychologists rely on while ascertaining which pathologies affect their patients.

According to the DSM guidelines on Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), patients must express the following criteria before they are accurately diagnosed with this condition:

1) Apprehensive expectations: an excessive, overarching sense of worry and anxiety that is experienced most of the days over a period of six months, including at least three of the following symptoms:

  • Perpetual restlessness and / or edginess
  • Extreme tendency towards feeling fatigued
  • Concentration problems and absentmindedness
  • Tendency towards feeling irritable
  • Persistent muscle tensions and cramps
  • Restless sleeping or difficulty falling asleep

2) Inability to relax: patients suffering from GAD simply cannot stop their worrying, and the more they struggle with it, the more intense it usually gets

3) The anxiousness perceived by the patient bares a general focus (meaning it doesn’t have a clearly defined source, as in other forms of anxiety disorder).

4) The discomforts and insecurities prompted by anxiety are such: they pose an obstacle to the patient’s personal relationships, their careers and / or their normal social functioning.

5) The aforementioned disturbances are neither caused by substance abuse issues or another medical condition.

If you feel as though these five topics together clearly describe your predicament, there’s a good chance you’re afflicted with General Anxiety Disorder.  If so, you should consider seeing a therapist as soon as possible to make sure you receive a proper diagnosis.

How common is Generalised Anxiety Disorder?

Even though most people suffering from this condition tend to feel as though it makes them lonely and isolated from the world, truth of the matter is that GAD is quite prevalent – as much as 3% of the population is diagnosed with this pathology any given year, and as much as 5% of all people may be afflicted during their lifetime.

Generalised Anxiety Disorder is the most common of all anxiety disorders and the second most frequent psychological disorder, next to depression (for more details, read the article about anxiety and depression).

Millions of people have their life quality hindered because of GAD, and a substantial percentage of these patients do not seek professional help until they’ve suffered with anxiety for over a decade.

Do not be a part of the group of people who suffer in vain. If you feel as though you may have an anxiety disorder, there are available treatments which have proven very effective. But you have to realize that every successful treatment begins with the resolution to overcome this pathology.

It’s up to you to decide whether or not you’re ready to take action to reclaim your life. There are many professionals who can help you through this problem, but not unless you seek help. There are also ways you can help yourself by making certain lifestyle adjustments, such as getting more exercise and reducing your intake of stimulants.

Source for this article:

(1)   Wittchen, H. and Hoyer J. “Generalised Anxiety Disorder: Nature and Course“,  Ph.D. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 2001; pp 16-17

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