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Sources: Dr Jean Cottraux, Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies; Dr Christophe André, Cognitive therapies

The tag


Generalized anxiety disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder, is a common anxiety disorder requiring specific management.

General information on generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

It very frequently affects the elderly. Generalized anxiety disorder affects social functioning.

Its lifetime prevalence is 6%.

Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The diagnosis will be made by a doctor at best a psychiatrist.

Generalized anxiety disorder

  Excessive “expectation with apprehension” anxiety and worry occurring mostly for at least 6 months regarding a number of events or activities “such as work or school performance”.

The person has difficulty controlling this concern.

Anxiety and worry are associated with three "or more" of the following six symptoms "with at least some symptoms present most of the time during the past 6 months."

1) Restlessness or feeling of being hovered over or at the end of it.

2) Fatigability.

3) Difficulty concentrating or memory loss.

4) Irritability.

5) Muscle tension.

6) Sleep disturbance "difficulty falling asleep or interrupted restless and unsatisfactory sleep".

D. The subject of anxiety and worry is not limited to manifestations of I-axis disorder.

To summarize, generalized anxiety disorder corresponds to a background of permanent anxiety badly experienced by the patient.


Differential diagnosis and comorbidities of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The doctor / psychiatrist will carry out the differential diagnosis or the diagnosis of comorbidity with:

  • phobia: the anxiety attack is triggered, in the phobia, by a precise triggering factor, always the same, called the phobogenic object. For example, snakes, blood, etc. Anxiety only appears in the event of confrontation with the object of the phobia, evocation, or in the event of a situation where the person thinks he risks confronting the feared object.

  • panic disorder: there is typically no anxiety attack or panic attack, but a constant background of anxiety, with disturbing anxious thoughts.

  • OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder): Anxiety rises but does not become an anxiety attack because the person will use rituals to prevent the anxiety rise.

  • Social phobia: in panic disorder, the anxious person is afraid of having an anxiety attack, it is the crisis and its symptoms that are feared, while in social phobia, the anxious person fears the ridicule of having a crisis , it is the ridiculous and not the crisis and its symptoms that are feared.

  • Physical illness: cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological or even endocrine diseases.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder: presence of a stressful or traumatic event

  • Hypochondria where concerns are centered on health.

  • Characterized depressive episode.


However, there is a strong coexistence (also called comorbidity) of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with other anxiety disorders.


What Are the Causes of Generalized Anxiety Disorder?

Neurobiological model

One hypothesis suggests that the dysfunction within the amygdala or cortico-striato-thalamo-cortical loops is repeated incessantly but not very intensely.

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