Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Understanding Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a distressing condition associated with excessive worry, which can considerably impact a person’s personal life, family, and work.

Generalized anxiety disorder overview

People with generalized anxiety disorder feel extremely worried about typically everyday things. These worries often relate to responsibilities, finances, or health – whether their own health or that of a loved one.1 Generalized anxiety disorder is different from normal worries in that the anxiety is greater, lasts longer, and is often not caused by one specific worry.1

Facts about Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is a distressing condition associated with excessive worry, which can considerably impact a person’s personal life, family, and work. These worries often relate to responsibilities, finances, or health – whether their own health or that of a loved one.1

People with generalized anxiety disorder experience feelings of worry most of the time which seem out of proportion when compared with the actual likelihood of something bad happening.1

Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

People with generalized anxiety disorder experience feelings of worry most of the time.1 For example, the person may worry about their job, looking after their household, or being late for an appointment.1 The person’s worries seem out of proportion when compared with the actual likelihood of something bad happening, yet they find it difficult to control their feelings.1 If one worry is resolved, the person is likely to shift to worrying about something else.1

 

In addition to excessive worry, people with generalized anxiety disorder may have symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, feeling on edge, becoming tired more easily, and feeling irritable.1 People with the disorder may also experience physical symptoms such as sweating, nausea, and diarrhea.1

 

Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder can come and go across a person’s lifetime, but it is considered a long-term (chronic) disorder, and very few people will completely overcome their symptoms.1

3.7%

of people suffer from generalized anxiety disorder worldwide.2

50%

of people have their first symptoms before the age of 39 years.2

51%

of people with generalized anxiety disorder are severely disabled in some aspect of their home, work, relationship or social life.2

Epidemiology and burden

Worldwide, 3.7% of people suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.2 The disorder is more common in high-income countries (5.0%) than in low-income countries (1.6%).2 Most people diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder are middle aged, but symptoms occur across a range of ages.1,2 Generalized anxiety disorder is twice as common in women than in men.1

 

A global survey by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 51% of people with generalized anxiety disorder are severely disabled in some aspect of their home, work, relationship or social life.2 People with the disorder miss an average of 8 days of work or activities per year because of their disorder.3 People with generalized anxiety disorder are also more likely to report poor overall well-being and quality of life than people without the disorder.4

Facts about Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder is twice as common in women than in men.1

People with generalized anxiety disorder miss an average of 8 days of work or activities per year because of their disorder.3

People who are concerned that they – or their loved ones – are experiencing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder should see their doctor for help and advice.

Diagnosis and care

People who are concerned that they – or their loved ones – are experiencing symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder should see their doctor for help and advice. Generalized anxiety disorder is diagnosed based on an interview with the doctor, who will ask a person about their symptoms and experiences. Although it is a relatively common disorder, in one study 71% of cases were not detected by primary physicians.5 The high rate of misdiagnosis is thought to be due to a large overlap of symptoms with other anxiety and mood disorders, and the fact that many people with generalized anxiety disorder also suffer from other conditions, most commonly social phobia.6

 

There is no current cure for generalized anxiety disorder; however, symptoms can be managed and a person’s quality of life can be improved using a combination of medication and support from professionals and loved ones.7

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
  2. Ruscio AM, Hallion LS, Lim CCW, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Al-Hamzawi A, Alonso J, et al. Cross-sectional comparison of the epidemiology of DSM-5 generalized anxiety disorder across the globe. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(5):465–475.
  3. Alonso J, Petukhova M, Vilagut G, Chatterji S, Heeringa S, Üstün TB, et al. Days out of role due to common physical and mental conditions: results from the WHO World Mental Health surveys. Mol Psychiatry. 2011;16(12):1234–1246.
  4. Hoffman DL, Dukes EM, Wittchen HU. Human and economic burden of generalized anxiety disorder. Depress Anxiety. 2008;25(1):72–90.
  5. Vermani M, Marcus M, Katzman MA. Rates of detection of mood and anxiety disorders in primary care: a descriptive, cross-sectional study. Prim Care Companion CNS Disord. 2011;13(2):PCC.10m01013.
  6. Newman MG, Przeworski A, Fisher AJ, Borkovec TD. Diagnostic comorbidity in adults with generalized anxiety disorder: impact of comorbidity on psychotherapy outcome and impact of psychotherapy on comorbid diagnoses. Behav Ther. 2010;41(1):59–72.
  7. Bandelow B, Michaelis S, Wedekind D. Treatment of anxiety disorders. Dialogues Clin Neurosci. 2017;19(2):93–107.

  1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
  2. Ruscio AM, Hallion LS, Lim CCW, Aguilar-Gaxiola S, Al-Hamzawi A, Alonso J, et al. Cross-sectional comparison of the epidemiology of DSM-5 generalized anxiety disorder across the globe. JAMA Psychiatry. 2017;74(5):465–475.
  3. Alonso J, Petukhova M, Vilagut G, Chatterji S, Heeringa S, Üstün TB, et al. Days out of role due to common physical and mental conditions: results from the WHO World Mental Health surveys. Mol Psychiatry. 2011;16(12):1234–1246.

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