Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 (A comprehensive guide)

In this guide, we will discuss the Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 criteria, symptoms, risk factors, when to look for help and treatment options available. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 is characterized by an exaggerated or excessive worry about daily life activities or events with no apparent reason to worry.

People with GAD tend to expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about their medical condition, financial related problems, their family or their work. 

The worry does not match reality and it is considered way out of proportion for any given situation.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 (A comprehensive guide)

Symptoms of GAD

According to the Mayo Clinic, Generalized Anxiety Disorder Symptoms can Vary from one person to another, but there are some common physical symptoms that someone with GAD might experience:

  • Persistent worrying or anxiety about a number of areas that are out of proportion to the impact of the events
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes
  • Perceiving situations and events as threatening, even when they aren’t
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty
  • Indecisiveness and fear of making the wrong decision
  • Inability to set aside or let go of a worry
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge
  • Difficulty concentrating, or the feeling that your mind “goes blank”

Physical signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle tension or muscle aches
  • Trembling, feeling twitchy
  • Nervousness or being easily startled
  • Sweating. Check the best antiperspirants for anxiety sweat.
  • Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome
  • Irritability

Causes of GAD

Many researchers agree that the causes for Generalized Anxiety Disorder may be a combination of multiple factors, such as in many other mental health disorders, which can include:

  • Brain structures, functions, and chemistry
  • Genetics (inherited component)
  • Differences in how threats are perceived
  • Child development
  • Personality traits
Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 (A comprehensive guide)

Risk Factors of GAD

Some researchers suggest that women might have a higher risk than men since they tend to get diagnosed more often than they do.

Some of the identified factors that may increase the chance of developing GAD are:

  • Personality traits: someone that is timid or negative towards life or is constantly avoiding danger, may have a higher risk of developing Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
  • Genetics: if you have a relative with the condition you may be at a higher risk of developing GAD too.
  • Life experiences: if we compare the history of life events or changes from people with GAD we may find they all share some traumatic or negative experiences while growing up or recently they have experienced a traumatic event. 

When to look for help?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder can be a very disabling condition.

If you identify with some of the items above you might consider seeking some professional help:

  • If your anxiety is preventing you from performing tasks in an efficient or quick way because you have difficulties concentrating.
  • If your anxiety is time-consuming and it’s preventing you from focusing on other activities than worrying. 
  • If Anxiety is taking away your energy, it is making you feel drained of sleepy all the time. 
  • If besides the feeling anxiety, you are also starting to feel depressed.

Worsening physical health

People with Generalized Anxiety Disorder have a higher risk of having or worsening the symptoms of the following health conditions:

  • Digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers.
  • Migraines and headaches.
  • Chronic Pain
  • Insomnia or difficulties when going to sleep.
  • Heart-related illnesses. 
Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 (A comprehensive guide)

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Comorbidity

According to the Mayo Clinic, Generalized Anxiety Disorder often tends to co-exist with other mental health disorders that can make diagnosis more difficult due to symptom overlap and misdiagnosis.

Subsequently, suggesting a treatment plan can become challenging.

Some of the most common mental health disorders that co-occur with GAD are:

  • Specific Phobias
  • Panic Disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempt to commit suicide
  • Substance abuse

How to assess GAD: GAD 7 screening tool sample

The GAD 7 is a widely accepted screening tool (self-test) which helps identifying potential cases of GAD. 

Here you can find the sample test for GAD 7 and you can also click here to find a printable version (Source: from the NHS)

GAD-7 Anxiety

Instructions: 

“Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems? (Use “✔” to indicate your answer” 

  1. Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Not being able to stop or control worrying

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Worrying too much about different things

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Trouble relaxing

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Being so restless that it is hard to sit still

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Becoming easily annoyed or irritable

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen

Not at all (0)

Several days (1)

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day (3)

GAD-7 Anxiety Column totals: ___ + ___ + ___ + ___ = Total Score _____

 If you checked off any problems, how difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people?

Not difficult at all (  )

Somewhat difficult (  )

Very difficult  ( )

Extremely difficult (  )

Source: From the Primary Care Evaluation of Mental Disorders Patient Health Questionnaire (PRIME-MD PHQ). The PHQ was developed by Drs. Robert L. Spitzer, Janet B.W. Williams, Kurt Kroenke, and colleagues.

For research information, contact Dr. Spitzer at rls8@columbia.edu. PRIME-MD® is a trademark of Pfizer Inc. Copyright© 1999 Pfizer Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission

Score

Here is the scoring total and what it means:

  1. From 5 to 9 points, Mild Anxiety
  2. From 10 to 14 points, Moderate Anxiety
  3. More than 15 points, Severe Anxiety

Who can take the test?

This test has been validated to be applied to the general population, adolescents with a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and primary care patients. 

Can I take it in a different language?

Yes, you can. Just click here to go to Pfizer’s website to choose the test and the available languages. 

Considerations

This test should be used only for screening, by no means is considered to replace a rigorous assessment and diagnosis from mental health or related professional. 

Example GAD 7

Let’s see how the test should look like if we simulate having this screening test because I suspect I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). 

GAD-7 Anxiety

Instructions: 

“Over the last 2 weeks, how often have you been bothered by the following problems? (Use “✔” to indicate your answer” 

  1. Feeling nervous, anxious or on edge

Not at all 

Several days 

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day 

  1. Not being able to stop or control worrying

Not at all 

Several days

More than half the days 

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Worrying too much about different things

Not at all 

Several days 

More than half the days 

Nearly every day (3)

  1. Trouble relaxing

Not at all 

Several days 

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day 

  1. Being so restless that it is hard to sit still

Not at all 

Several days 

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day 

  1. Becoming easily annoyed or irritable

Not at all

Several days 

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day 

  1. Feeling afraid as if something awful might happen

Not at all 

Several days 

More than half the days (2)

Nearly every day 

GAD-7 Anxiety Column totals: _0__ + _0__ + _10__ + _6__ = Total Score _16__

 If you checked off any problems, how difficult have these problems made it for you to do your work, take care of things at home, or get along with other people?

Not difficult at all (  )

Somewhat difficult (  )

Very difficult  (x )

Extremely difficult (  )

Interpretating “my test”

In this case, my total score per column was 0+0+10+6= 16.

This means that according to the results I would have the corresponding severe anxiety symptomatology for Generalized Anxiety Disorder. 

This indicates that I should probably share my results with a mental health professional so he/she can assess in-depth reason why I scored as severely anxious. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 (A comprehensive guide)

Why is this blog post about Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 important?

In this blog post we talked about the current Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5 criteria.

Now we are able to identify the symptoms, understand what are the possible risks and how we could assess if the anxiety we are experiencing corresponds to the generalized anxiety disorder DSM 5 criteria

Also, we know now there are some available tools to assist identifying GAD cases.

This is a really good tool (self-assessment) with scientific-based research of its use in effectively identifying possible cases of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and to assess the severity of anxiety symptoms.

Feel free to comment in the comment section below!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Generalized Anxiety Disorder DSM 5

What is the DSM 5 code for generalized anxiety disorder?

The DSM 5 code for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is 300.02 and involves the persistent presentation of excessive and unrealistic worry for at least 6 months. 

What are the diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety disorder?

The diagnostic criteria for generalized anxiety involves the presence of excessive and unrealistic worry about things, events, people or activities for at least 6 months. 

Is generalized anxiety disorder in the DSM V?

Generalized Anxiety Disorder is in the DSM 5 under the category “Anxiety Disorders”.

What is the defining symptom of generalized anxiety disorder?

Generalized anxiety disorder is characterized for displaying chronic symptoms of excessive or exaggerated worry and tension about certain people, things, places or situations that must have been present for at least 6 months.People with  GAD have an inability to control their excessive worrying.

What is the ICD 10 code for generalized anxiety disorder?

Recommended Books

  1. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)
  2. Anxiety and Related Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-5® (ADIS-5) – Adult and Lifetime Version: Clinician Manual (Treatments That Work) 
  3. CBT Toolbox for Children and Adolescents: Over 200 Worksheets & Exercises for Trauma, ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, Depression & Conduct Disorders 
  4. Anxiety and Related Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-5 (ADIS-5)® – Adult Version: Client Interview Schedule 5-Copy Set (Treatments That Work) 
  5. The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner: Includes DSM-5 Updates

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Course

  • With over 50,000 participants, this anxiety course may be just what you need to regain control of your life.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

References

Very Well Mind

NCBI

Medscape

IHS

Talk space

CORC UK

Mayo Clinic

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