12 March 2004

Worries are not always GAD

Excessive worry is not only a feature of generalised anxiety disorder.

Excessive worry is not only a feature of generalised anxiety disorder. The worries of generalised anxiety disorder need to be distinguished from the ruminations of depression and the obsessions of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

The disorder that most closely overlaps with GAD is in fact depression; many people with GAD also have depressed mood, and many people with depression also have significant worries. The obsessions of OCD tend to be relatively senseless in comparison to the more understandable worries of GAD.

Second, a number of different general medical disorders may present with symptoms of anxiety; it is important not to misdiagnose GAD in these cases. Certain foods (e.g. caffeine), medications (e.g. stimulants), and substances (e.g. alcohol) may also contribute to increased anxiety.

Finally, GAD should be differentiated from normal anxiety. The distinction between normal anxiety and a clinical disorder such as GAD rests on the extent of distress and dysfunction associated with symptoms. The worries of GAD are of course more pronounced, more pervasive, and more likely associated with physical symptoms than are ordinary worries.

Information supplied by the Mental Health Information Centre (Toll free number: 0800 600 411)

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