Dr. Levy's CBT Blog
Insights on Well-Being, Contentment, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Psychiatric conditions are classified in accordance with a manual published by the American Psychiatric Association call the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.” This thick tome is in its fifth edition, so it is currently referred to as the DSM-5. There is a section in the DSM dedicated exclusively to Anxiety Disorders, and among them we’ll find Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
In clinical terms, GAD is characterized by excessive anxiety and worry about several domains of life that last for at least six months and is clearly excessive. That is accompanied by physical symptoms such as fatigue, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, muscle pain, difficulty sleeping or irritability. Together, these symptoms make life more difficult to live and enjoy. In everyday terms, GAD is that nagging, annoying, and relentless nasty voice in your head reminding you of everything that can possibly go wrong if you stop trying to control it. It’s exhausting - and no fun.
In the US, GAD affects approximately 8 in every 100 adults in their lifetime. Single (unmarried or previously married) females under 60 appear to be diagnosed with GAD more frequently than other demographic groups. That said, GAD affects all ages, genders, and socioeconomic strata, with 25% of all cases onsetting by age 25, 50% by age 39, and 75% by 53 years. Unfortunately, GAD is often recurrent and presenting with other mental health issues such as depression.
Interestingly, data from around the world shows us that GAD is more prevalent in high-income, industrialized countries than in developing ones. For example, while the 8% lifetime prevalence applies to the US, Australia and New Zealand, that figure is close to 1% for the population of Nigeria, While we don’t know exactly why that happens, one interesting hypothesis articulated in a large global study is that “individual differences in the propensity to worry may be more evident under conditions of relative wealth and stability, such as those found in high-income countries, than under conditions of relative scarcity and instability, where worry may be expected and widespread.”
Despite its high prevalence, GAD is often untreated. Research shows that less than 50% of individuals affected by GAD at the time of the survey had sought mental health treatment in the previous 12 months. That’s too bad, because psychotherapy, and particularly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), have been proven effective to treat GAD, with no side effects! If you want to determine if you have GAD and whether CBT may help, talk to a therapist.
Dr. Daniele Levy is a licensed psychologist offering CBT via Teletherapy from Menlo Park, CA. Her background uniquely combines leading edge training in behavioral sciences with deep expertise coaching and mentoring working professionals in dynamic organizations.