Generalized anxiety disorder history and symptoms

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Irfan Dotani


There are several disorders that have a tendency to co-occur with generalized anxiety disorder. These include; major depressive disorder, panic disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, substance abuse, irritable bowel syndrome and sleep disorders.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Comorbid Depression

  • In the National Comorbidity Survey (2005), 58% of patients diagnosed with major depression were found to have an anxiety disorder.
    • Among these patients, the rate of comorbidity with GAD was 17.2%, and with panic disorder, 9.9%.[1]
  • Patients with a diagnosed anxiety disorder also had high rates of comorbid depression, including 22.4% of patients with social phobia, 9.4% with agoraphobia, and 2.3% with panic disorder.[2]
    • For many, the symptoms of both depression and anxiety are not severe enough (i.e. are subsyndromal) to justify a primary diagnosis of either major depressive disorder (MDD) or an anxiety disorder.
  • Patients can also be categorized as having mixed anxiety-depressive disorder, and they are at significantly increased risk of developing full-blown depression or anxiety.
  • Appropriate treatment is necessary to alleviate symptoms and prevent the emergence of more serious disease.
  • Accumulating evidence indicates that patients with comorbid depression and anxiety tend to have greater illness severity and a lower treatment response than those with either disorder alone.[3]
    • In addition, social function and quality of life are more greatly impaired.
  • In addition to coexisting with depression, research shows that GAD often coexists with substance abuse or other conditions associated with stress, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Patients with physical symptoms such as insomnia or headaches should also tell their doctors about their feelings of worry and tension.
    • This will help the patient's health care provider to recognize whether the person is suffering from GAD.


  1. Zald DH, Hagen MC, Pardo JV (2002). "Neural correlates of tasting concentrated quinine and sugar solutions". J Neurophysiol. 87 (2): 1068–75. doi:10.1152/jn.00358.2001. PMID 11826070.
  2. Rosen JB, Schulkin J (1998). "From normal fear to pathological anxiety". Psychol Rev. 105 (2): 325–50. PMID 9577241.
  3. Phillips AC, Carroll D, Der G (2015). "Negative life events and symptoms of depression and anxiety: stress causation and/or stress generation". Anxiety Stress Coping. 28 (4): 357–71. doi:10.1080/10615806.2015.1005078. PMC 4772121. PMID 25572915.