Practitioner 2011; 255 (1738):25-28

Improving recognition of generalised anxiety disorder

23 Mar 2011Pais-up subscribers

Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common condition, with a point prevalence of 4.4% among the adult population in England. It is characterised by a persistent, unfocused sense of threat, associated with symptoms of tension, autonomic hyperactivity and vigilance. Patients repeatedly overestimate the danger of physical or social harm, and at the same time underestimate their ability to cope. As a result, they worry excessively about a wide range of activities and life events, such as work, family issues, financial difficulties and health problems. GAD is a chronic relapsing condition, with a remission rate of only 38% after five years. It is associated with even greater impairment of occupational and social functioning than that associated with major depression, and has a significant impact on quality of life. However, around two-thirds of patients are not recognised in primary care and only a third of those identified by the 2007 household survey in England were receiving any form of treatment. Both in research and in clinical practice, there has been an excessive focus on depression to the detriment of the anxiety disorders. This is unfortunate in view of the high prevalence of GAD, its substantial impact on functioning and its association with chronic physical health problems. It is to be welcomed that this imbalance is now being addressed.

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