Negative emotions constitute an intrinsic part of each person’s life, and it is valid to say that every single individual has bad moods and feels anxious time after time. In a healthy mental state, negative feelings and emotions, as well as fears and psychological tensions, shortly become replaced with the neutral and positive ones. Nevertheless, when anxiety persists for a significant time, it may indicate the development of an anxiety disorder.
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According to Bystritsky et al., anxiety disorders are usually less visible than many other mental disorders such as schizophrenia, yet they may have a similarly substantial adverse effect on one’s life and functionality (30). They are also among the most prevalent psychological conditions and are present in nearly 13% of the US people (Bystritsky et al. 30). There are different types of anxiety disorders identified in the literature, including phobias and panic disorders.
As Grison et al. note, all of them are associated with such a symptom as “excessive fear in the absence of true danger” (505). However, compared to phobias, which are usually characterized by fear of a particular thing, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is manifested in continual anxiety not related to anything in particular.
Bandelow et al. state that fears and overexaggerated dangers perceived and experienced by people with GAD can extend to almost every sphere of life including “health, family relationships, and their occupational or financial situation (or that of persons close to them)” (300). Additionally, Goodwin et al. note that GAD is associated with attentional biases to threat stimuli (107). It means that compared to healthy individuals, people with this disorder are constantly on alert because their attention to plausible and minor dangers is captured automatically.
Since such a condition is unnatural and exposes the human body to a high level of stress, it may lead to multiple physical symptoms. For instance, according to Grison et al., the anxiety-related chronic arousal of the nervous system can provoke hypertension, fatigue, headaches, muscle pains, restlessness, intestinal problems, lightheadedness, and sleep problems (506-507). All of these physiological signs can be used by healthcare practitioners to diagnose GAD.
As for the causes of GAD development, there is no clear evidence regarding this issue in the literature. The major etiological factors accepted by researchers are “traumatic life experiences, faulty conditioning, genetic influences, and neurobiological dysfunction” (Bandelow et al. 300).
Moreover, Newman et al. state that the given mental disorder may occur as a result of insecure attachment in childhood, parental loss, and separation (96). Along with physical symptoms, the subjective patient data derived from family and personal history can help differentiate GAD from other disorders. It is important to note these data considering that many patients with GAD have various psychological comorbidities including depression, fibromyalgia, post-traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, and others (Goodwin et al. 94).
Additionally, it is worth noticing that since the causality of GAD is more likely multifactorial in nature, the disorder must be addressed through complex and comprehensive interventions. For example, Locke et al. suggest that the combination of medication and physiotherapy is particularly effective in cases of moderate and severe GAD (620). Moreover, patient education, lifestyle counseling, as well as the development of meaningful, trustful, and compassionate relationships with individuals who have GAD can largely contribute to the improvement of their condition.
Overall, GAD can substantially disrupt important activities in the individual’s daily life. For this reason, it is essential to understand the disorder well and diagnose it correctly. GAD diagnosis requires a wide differential and accuracy to detect contributing factors and comorbidities. At the same time, right identification of GAD is key to the prescription of effective therapy.
Bandelow, Borwin et al. “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, vol. 110, no. 17, 2013, pp. 300–310.
Bystritsky, Alexander et al. “Current Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders.” Pharmacy and Therapeutics, vol. 38, no. 1, 2013, pp. 30–57.
Goodwin, Huw, et al. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Worry and Attention to Threat: A Systematic Review.” Clinical Psychology Review, vol. 54, 2017, pp. 107–122.
Grison, Sarah, et al. Psychology in Your Life. 2nd ed., W. W. Norton & Company, 2016.
Locke, Amy B., et al. “Diagnosis and Management of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder in Adults. ” American Family Physician, vol. 91, no. 9, 2015, pp. 617−624.
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Newman, Michelle G., et al. “Developmental Risk Factors in Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder.” Journal of Affective Disorders, vol. 206, 2016, pp. 94–102.