Adjustment Disorder vs Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Adjustment Disorder vs Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by persistent and excessive worry about a number of different things. People with GAD may anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. Individuals with GAD find it difficult to control their worry. They may worry more than seems warranted about actual events or may expect the worst even when there is no apparent reason for concern (“Anxiety and Depression Association of America,” 2020). An Adjustment Disorder (AD) is an emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or change in a person’s life. The reaction is considered an unhealthy or excessive response to the event or change within three months of it happening. Stressful events or changes in the life of a child or adolescent may be a family move, the parents’ divorce or separation, the loss of a pet, or the birth of a sibling. A sudden illness or restriction to a child’s life due to chronic illness may also result in an adjustment response (“Johns Hopkins Medicine,” 2020). The differences between GAD and Adjustment Disorder are that (AD) it is targeted more toward children and adolescents but it can be diagnosed for adults. With GAD, the anxiety and worry can be about many broad problems that the patient may be experiencing. Adjustment disorder typically has a pin pointed reason behind the anxiety they feel as in something has triggered the anxiety. Typically, with adjustment disorder, the patient will see a gradual decrease in anxiety after the situation goes away. GAD is continuous.

Diagnostic Criteria for GAD

When assessing for GAD, clinical professionals are looking for the following:

The presence of excessive anxiety and worry about a variety of topics, events, or activities. Worry occurs more often than not for at least 6 months and is clearly excessive.

The worry is experienced as very challenging to control. The worry in both adults and children may easily shift from one topic to another.

The anxiety and worry are accompanied with at least three of the following physical or cognitive symptoms (In children, only one of these symptoms is necessary for a diagnosis of GAD):

Edginess or restlessness

Tiring easily; more fatigued than usual

Impaired concentration or feeling as though the mind goes blank

Irritability (which may or may not be observable to others)

Increased muscle aches or soreness

Difficulty sleeping (due to trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, restlessness at night, or unsatisfying sleep) (Glasofer, 2020).

Psychotherapy and Psychopharmacology

Treatment involves meeting regularly to talk with a mental health professional. The goal is to change a person’s thinking and behaviors. This approach has been successful in creating permanent change in many people with anxiety. It’s considered first-line treatment for anxiety disorders in people who are pregnant. Others have found that the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy have provided long-term anxiety relief (“Healthline,” 2020). Medications can help enhance therapy. Some antianxiety medications such as Xanax, Ativan, and Klonopin are used but those need to be used short term. Antidepressants are also used such as Zoloft, Lexapro, Buspar, Paxil and Celexa, just to name a few. These are SSRI medications and are used most often. I should add that some lifestyle changes should be educated. Exercise can help lower anxiety and meditation. Avoiding extra caffeine could be helpful, (this one may be hard as coffee is the morning elixir). Most people can manage GAD with a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.

References

Adjustment Disorders. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adjustment-disorders

Generalized Anxiety Disorder. (2020). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder

Generalized anxiety Disorder (GAD). (2020). Retrieved from https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/generalized-anxiety-disorder-gad#:~:text=Generalized%20Anxiety%20Disorder%20(GAD)%20is,difficult%20to%20control%20their%20worry.

Glasofer, D. R. (2020). Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Symptoms and Diagnosis. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/dsm-5-criteria-for-generalized-anxiety-disorder-1393

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