Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Revisited

Abstract

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) from an official recognition as a residual category in DSM-III has come a long way to be appreciated as a common underlying anxiety pathway in the literature. Despite still being defined as extreme anxiety and worry upon performance and about one’s health, GAD seems to be a general umbrella of anxiety, covering even social anxiety and panic disorder (PD) and even when not treated and chronic, leading to major depressive disorder (MDD). Along the line of some other similar studies and contentions, in the present study we sought to validate the hypothesis of GAD encompassing social anxiety as well as performance anxiety and its extension to PD and MDD. We also examined the onset of each diagnostic category of GAD, PD and MDD and their developmental course in our clinical sample. 113 patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) out of 295 referrals to our mood and anxiety clinic during the three months of May–July 2019, were identified and included in this research. We expanded the definition of GAD as per our clinical observation to include any situations triggering the anxiety including any performance and social situations and did not exclude if the anxiety led to panic attacks. The results of our study showed that an encompassing GAD (including performance and social anxiety) has an early onset, recognized partially in childhood, but mostly during adolescence. An untreated GAD was complicated with panic disorder and episodes of major depression, each with an onset later in life. GAD in our study was also found to be familial and genetic, while its post-morbid depression seemed to be more a reaction to a long-standing untreated anxiety. The findings of our study if replicated has research implication of better understanding the developmental course of mood disorders and hold the promise of more targeted treatments of anxiety, panic and depression in clinical practice.

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Correspondence to Mostafa Showraki.

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Showraki, M., Showraki, T. & Brown, K. Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Revisited. Psychiatr Q 91, 905–914 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11126-020-09747-0

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Keywords

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • GAD
  • Social anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-morbid depression