Generalised Anxiety Disorder

DSM-V criteria for generalised anxiety disorder

The DSM-V defines Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) as excessive anxiety and worry about numerous events or activities, which occurs on more days than not for a duration of at least 6 months.

The individual finds it difficult to control the worry, and the anxiety and worry is associated with three or more of the following six symptoms:

  1. restlessness or feeling on edge
  2. easily fatigued
  3. difficulty with concentration or the mind goes blank
  4. irritability
  5. muscle tension
  6. sleep disturbances (restless or unsatisfying sleep, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep)

NB: only one item is required in children

A GAD diagnosis is warranted if:

  • clinically significant distress or impairment in social, work or other important areas of function is caused by the anxiety, worry or physical symptoms;
  • the disturbance cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition (such as hyperthyroidism); and
  • the disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder.


Prevalence of GAD

GAD is a relatively common condition; the National Comorbidity Survey- Replication estimates report that 5.7 percent of the population will suffer from it at some point in their lives. It also tends to be chronic. Moreover, GAD is approximately twice as common in women than it is in men. There is no definitive age of onset; sufferers often report having been anxious nearly their entire lives, whilst others report a slow and insidious onset.


Comorbidities with generalised anxiety disorder

Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs in conjunction with other disorders, especially other anxiety and mood disorders like panic disorder, social phobia, specific phobia, PTSD, and major depressive disorder. Individuals with GAD tend to rely heavily on tranquilizing drugs, sleeping pills, and alcohol, which can complicate the clinical picture of the disorder.