Published on Sep 19, 2013 and last reviewed on Sep 07, 2018 - 3 min read
A 35-year-old woman came to me with a chief complaint of muscle tension. She stated that she has experienced a considerable amount of muscle tension her entire life, but it has become increasingly worse over the last 12 months.
The above mentioned patient is suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD can be defined as anxiety and worry about several events and activities for a majority of the day. The anxiety and worry of GAD differs from normal anxiety by its excessiveness, the difficulty of controlling it, and their interference in our routine day life. The onset of GAD can be primary (without any apparent cause) or secondary to thyroid problems, drug abuse or cardio vascular diseases.
Generalized anxiety disorder is much more common in women than in men. The age of onset is often difficult to calculate, as most patients typically report a history of excessive worry throughout their lives. Physical complaints can be prominent, and patients could have symptoms of motor tension, tremors, palpitation, giddiness, fearfulness and weakness and headaches. Patients with autonomic hyperactivity can have gastrointestinal, pulmonary, or cardiovascular complaints, whereas patients with cognitive vigilance are often irritable and easily frazzled. The cause of GAD is unknown in majority of cases but it is often result of interaction of biological and psychosocial factors.
The course of GAD is variable. It is usually regarded as a chronic condition that worsens with life stressors with the occurrence of negative life events.
Approximately 50% to 90% of patients with GAD have an associated mental disorder such as depressive disorder, panic disorder, and dysthymic disorder.
Research shows that onset of GAD typically occurs before the onset of depression and that Depression may result secondary to the chronic stress of GAD.
Although GAD is a common psychiatric illness, only one-third of patients actually seek treatment for it. Others seek help for somatic symptoms of this illness from various other physicians such as cardiologists, internists, and gastroenterologists.
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