Anxiety (cont.)

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What is generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)?

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a mood disorder that is characterized by multiple and/or nonspecific worries. The fear associated with GAD interferes with the person's ability to sleep, think, or function in some other way. Symptoms of anxiety are even described in the word itself. Specifically, the word anxiety comes from the Latin word anxietas, which means to choke or upset. The symptoms therefore include emotional or behavioral symptoms as well as ways of thinking that are responses to feeling as if one is in danger.

What are the different types of anxiety?

Anxiety can range from the constructive kind that elevates performance as with performance anxiety, to disorders of anxiety, in that the individual suffers from a level of fear, angst, or dread that interferes with his or her ability to function. The most common anxiety disorders are specific phobias. Other anxiety disorders include social anxiety disorder, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

How common is generalized anxiety disorder?

GAD is quite common. In fact, it is the most common anxiety disorder seen by most primary care doctors. About 5% of people will develop GAD over the course of their lifetime. That translates to millions of GAD sufferers. This illness usually begins when individuals are in their early 20s. Panic and generalized anxiety occur in about 0.7% of children in any one-year period, up to 20% over the course of childhood.

What are causes and risk factors for anxiety?

While there is no single cause of GAD, women tend to develop this condition and most other anxiety disorders more often than men, and individuals with a family history of anxiety and depression are more at risk for having GAD. Younger adults are more likely to have GAD or social anxiety disorder compared to older adults. Other risk factors for developing social anxiety disorder include being of Native-American ethnicity and having a low income. Being of Asian, Hispanic, or black ethnicity, as well as residing in a more populated region, seems to reduce the risk of social anxiety disorder.

Inhibited temperament, parental anxiety, and having family and friends who somehow support avoidant coping mechanisms are risk factors for developing an anxiety disorder. Adolescents who smoke have been found to be at risk for developing anxiety. In children, girls, particularly those who begin puberty early, seem to be more likely to develop anxiety than their age peers of both genders.

Life stresses, involving health problems and family disagreements, have been found to be associated with developing an anxiety disorder. Certain other life stresses put people at risk for developing anxiety as well. For example, in a study of African-American, Afro-Caribbean, and non-Hispanic white individuals, non race-based discrimination was found to be a risk factor for developing anxiety in each of those groups while race-based discrimination was found to increase the likelihood of only the African-American people in developing anxiety.


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