• Risk Factors for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

    A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
    It is possible to develop generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing GAD. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
    Risk factors for developing GAD include:

    Gender

    Women have twice the risk of developing GAD as men. Reasons for this include hormonal factors, cultural expectations (taking care of others’ needs at home, in the community, and at work), and more willingness to visit doctors and talk about their anxiety.

    Family History

    Anxiety disorders tend to run in families. This may be due to family dynamics, such as the failure to learn effective coping skills, overprotective behaviors, abuse, and violence.

    Genetic Factor

    Approximately one out of four (25%) first degree relatives with GAD will be affected.

    Substance Abuse

    Nicotine , alcohol , cannabis , and cocaine abuse can increase the risk of GAD.

    Medical Conditions

    Patients with unexplained physical complaints, irritable bowel syndrome , migraine , or chronic pain conditions have a greater risk of GAD.

    Socioeconomic and Ethnic Factors

    Members of poor minority groups, particularly immigrants, tend to be at greater risk for developing GAD. This may be due to problems adjusting to a new culture, feelings of inferiority, alienation, and loss of strong family ties.

    Depression

    Generalized anxiety disorder often occurs concurrently with depression , particularly major depression or dysthymia (chronic mild depression). Adolescents with depression seem particularly at risk for developing GAD in adulthood.

    Cultural Factors

    Two studies in 2000 found that anxiety rates among children and adolescents had increased significantly since the 1950s. Both studies suggested that anxiety was related to lack of social connections and a sense of increased environmental threat.

    Stressful Events in Susceptible People

    The initial appearance of GAD often follows a highly stressful event, such as the loss of a loved one, the loss of an important relationship, the loss of a job, or being a victim of a crime.

    References

    Generalized anxiety disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated September 9, 2012. Accessed October 11, 2012.

    Gliatto M. Generalized anxiety disorder. Am Fam Physician . 2000 Oct 1;62(7):1591-1600. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20001001/1591.html . Accessed October 11, 2012.

    Hettema JM, Prescott CA, Myers JM, et al. The structure of genetic and environmental risk factors for anxiety disorders in men and women. Arch Gen Psych. 2005;62:182-189.

    Rapee RM. Family factors in the development and management of anxiety disorders. Clin Child Fam Psychol Rev . 2012;15:69-80.

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