Watch Dr. Sylvia answer a question from Rizwan on Facebook about Generalized Anxiety Disorder and how it's different from clinical depression - click here.
Rizwan from Facebook wrote in:
“I know a lady in my circle. She is regularly very worried because of some family issues. She doesn’t sleep well and also feels low these days. Her appetite is less than normal now for her. Is she suffering from GAD?”
Thanks for your question on Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Rizwan. To better understand this disorder, here are some important facts to keep in mind:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD is known as the “worrier” diagnosis.
People with GAD tend to ruminate on anxious or negative thoughts, which propel them into a seemingly endless cycle of anxiety. The more they worry, the more the habit is reinforced.
Over 40 million Americans suffer from GAD. That’s 18% of the population! In fact according to many sources, anxiety is the number one diagnosis in the US. However, most sufferers don’t get help for it and continue to hurt when there are proven remedies for this condition.
Here are a few of the most common symptoms for GAD:
- Excessive anxiety and worry
- Difficulty controlling worried thoughts
- Restlessness or feeling on edge
- Easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating or mind goes blank regularly
- Muscle tension
- Insomnia or restless sleep
Clinical Depression commonly co-occurs with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and it is another one of the most common mental health diagnoses in America.
In fact, forty two percent of GAD patients also have clinical depression. The combination of the two conditions can propel us into an endless loop of catastrophic thinking that convinces us we are helpless and hopeless. The depressed and anxious brain tends to avoid objectively evaluating the evidence and instead jumps to catastrophic conclusions. Relapsing into depression is tragically common and is more likely when the previous episode was severe and incapacitating.
Common symptoms of Clinical Depression include:
- Depressed thoughts and mood
- Low energy, fatigue, and sudden loss of energy
- Diminished interest or pleasure in the usual activities
- Significant weight loss or weight gain
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Restlessness or feeling slowed down
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate
- Difficulty making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of overlap between the symptoms of anxiety and depression and it is often very difficult to differentiate between the two.
Most depressed people have anxiety and vice versa. For example, many people who are depressed tend to worry, sleep and eat erratically, and feel low and empty much of the time. Anxious people may also worry, sleep and eat erratically, and feel blue some of the time. It is my opinion that while anxiety and depression often co-occur, one of the conditions precedes the other and is usually more dominant.
However, it is extremely important to differentiate between the two diagnoses since therapy approaches and medication heavily rely on an accurate diagnosis. Different psychotherapies and medicines are used to specifically treat each condition.
If you are worried about your friend having one of these problems Rizwan, please seek the help of a clinical psychologist or mental health professional who can use a combination of interviews and psychological testing to provide the correct diagnosis for effective treatment.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA)
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - IV - RT