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Psychol Med. 2005 Dec;35(12):1761-72.

Should excessive worry be required for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder? Results from the US National Comorbidity Survey Replication.

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  • 1Department of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Excessive worry is required by DSM-IV, but not ICD-10, for a diagnosis of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). No large-scale epidemiological study has ever examined the implications of this requirement for estimates of prevalence, severity, or correlates of GAD.

METHOD:

Data were analyzed from the US National Comorbidity Survey Replication, a nationally representative, face-to-face survey of adults in the USA household population that was fielded in 2001-2003. DSM-IV GAD was assessed with Version 3.0 of the WHO Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Non-excessive worriers meeting all other DSM-IV criteria for GAD were compared with respondents who met full GAD criteria as well as with other survey respondents to consider the implications of removing the excessiveness requirement.

RESULTS:

The estimated lifetime prevalence of GAD increases by approximately 40% when the excessiveness requirement is removed. Excessive GAD begins earlier in life, has a more chronic course, and is associated with greater symptom severity and psychiatric co-morbidity than non-excessive GAD. However, non-excessive cases nonetheless evidence substantial persistence and impairment of GAD, high rates of treatment-seeking, and significantly elevated co-morbidity compared with respondents without GAD. Non-excessive cases also have sociodemographic characteristics and familial aggregation of GAD comparable to excessive cases.

CONCLUSIONS:

Individuals who meet all criteria for GAD other than excessiveness have a somewhat milder presentation than those with excessive worry, yet resemble excessive worriers in a number of important ways. These findings challenge the validity of the excessiveness requirement and highlight the need for further research into the optimal definition of GAD.

PMID:
16300690
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC1895923
Free PMC Article

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