A person suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder falls prey to persistent anxiety, which may often be related to minor and objectively quite insignificant things. The distinguishing feature of this disorder is a chronic and uncontrollable form of worry concerning any kind of circumstance or activity. For example, these persons may be constantly terrorized by the possibility that something terrible may happen to their children. The disorder is so pervasive that <<diffuse anxiety >> is a perfectly apt label for this condition.

Other frequent related somatic symptoms are: sweating, feeling flushed, racing heart, nausea, diarrhea, a cold sensation, sweaty hands, dry mouth, feeling a lump in the throat, superficial breathing and pollakiuria (unduly frequent daytime urination). All of these somatic manifestations reflect the hyperactivity of the autonomous nervous system (see the section on anxiety and stress). The heartbeat and breathing rhythm may also be accelerated. People may occasionally also present disorders of the skeletal muscles: muscular tension and pain, especially in the area at the back of the head and across the shoulders, nervous tics in the eyelids and in other parts of the body, trembling, getting tired very easily and an inability to relax.

Those suffering from this disorder easily “jump out of their skin” and tend to be agitated and restless. Generally speaking, they are apprehensive and they will often torment themselves, imagining some kind of imminent calamity such as death. Other frequent traits include impatience, irritability, explosions of anger, insomnia and the tendency to be easily distracted owing to the constant state of tension they experience.

The lifetime prevalence of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is quite high as it is found in approximately 5% of the general population (Wittchen et al., 1994). It generally first appears during adolescence, although many affected individuals refer that they have always suffered from this condition (Barlow et al., 1986). Stressful life events (see Stress) seem to play some role in its onset (Blazer, Hughes and Gorge, 1987) and its frequency is twice as high amongst women as it is amongst men. It also presents a high degree of comorbidity with other anxiety disorders or mood disorders (Brown, Barlow and Liebowitz, 1994).

>>> (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)


Bibliographical references:

Barlow, D.H, Blanchard, E.B., Vermilyea, J.A., Vermilyea, B.B., & DiNardo P.A. (1986). Generalized anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder: Description and reconceptualization. American Journal of Psychiatry, 143, 40-44.

Blazer, D., Hughes, D., & George, L.K. (1987). Stressful life events and the onset of a generalized anxiety syndrome. American Journal of Psychiatry, 144, 1178-1183.

Brown, T.A., Barlow, D.H., Liebowitz, M.R. (1994). The empirical basis of generalized anxiety disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry, 151, 1272-1280.

Wittchen, H.U., Zhao, S., Kessler, R.C., & Eaton, W.W. (1994). DSM-III-R generalized anxiety disorder in the national comorbidity survey. Archives of General Psychiatry, 51, 355-364.


Psychology and psychotherapy
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