As one of the most prevalent mental disorders in America; generalized anxiety disorder –
or GAD – is an important diagnostic consideration for many professionals (Fricchione, 2004).
GAD has been called “worry without reason” (Wehrenberg & Prinz, 2007, p. 116), and can
affect several age groups. Children can develop GAD and suffer from it the rest of their lives.
Adults can also develop it, and it is common among the aging and among women. This could
also possibly be a result of societal pressures on men not to admit to the symptoms (Wehrenberg
& Prinz, 2007). Unlike other related phobias or panic disorders, this is a constant, almost
unrelenting anxiety about events that are unlikely to occur. Symptoms that point to GAD are
restlessness, muscle tension and sleep disturbance, among others (American Psychiatric
Association, 2000) It is useful to study this disorder not only to learn to look for symptoms, but
also to learn how to communicate with and identify dysfunction in others suffering from some
form of anxiety disorder, or even serious stress.
Development of GAD can occur in several ways. It is very likely that in many cases there
is a hereditary predisposition to this disorder. Also, the way a child is raised can greatly increase
or decrease the amount of stress a person experiences or puts on him or herself throughout life.
Children who are especially bright are more likely to struggle with anxiety partly because, not
only are expectations higher, but also understanding the threat of certain situations are more
difficult than it would be for a more experienced adolescent or adult (Verduin & Kendall, 2009).
Environmental stressors are also a determining factor. Life-changing events or even simply the
perceived threat of losing something held dear (relationship, status, etc.) can precipitate an
anxiety disorder. Experiencing physical illness or some other extreme physical pain or feelings
of inadequacy can also be precipitating factors (Beck, Emery & Greenberg, 1985). Considering
the above, it is easy to see why this disorder also affects the elderly as well as their younger
counterparts. Aging causes physical deteriorations and the impending dread of continuing to
decline and deteriorate mentally, or be a burden to family and caregivers can certainly be very
anxiety-inducing. Because these are all situations that everyone will probably experience in some
way, somehow, at some point, it can be difficult to diagnose this disorder.
When considering the symptoms that contribute to this anxiety disorder, the relative
severity should be analyzed carefully, factoring in social, cultural and generational guidelines.
The current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, states that for
a patient to be diagnosed they should have experienced at least three (one for children) of the
symptoms most days during the last six months: 1. Restlessness or feeling keyed...