The Natural History of Generalized Anxiety Disorder: A Review

Catherine L. Woodman, MD


Medscape Psychiatry & Mental Health eJournal. 1997;2(3) 

In This Article


There are few follow-up studies of GAD or anxiety neurosis, but the existing ones have shown that GAD is a stable diagnosis. In addition, while comorbidity is common at the time that the subject seeks treatment, additional disorders do not appear to eclipse or obliterate the disorder with the passage of time. These studies have also shown that, in contrast to the remitting course of depressive illnesses, GAD is chronic in treatment-seeking populations. This difference in outcome is critical to differentiating between depressive disorders and anxiety disorders.

Follow-up studies have found that GAD is chronic and has an ongoing impact on occupational and social function. It is not known whether community populations experience a similar chronicity, due to a lack of longitudinal follow-up data in this population. If we assume a spectrum of severity, then we would expect to find milder illness in the community as well as in primary care settings, and milder illness might be more likely to be remitting. Again, there is little information concerning this possibility at present, and further research is needed.

The diagnostic validity of GAD has been questioned since its inception in 1980. Although there is limited information about the course and outcome of this disorder, especially in the elderly and in children, the existing data support GAD as an independent diagnosis. GAD is a chronic and disabling disorder that is stable over time and distinguishable from other anxiety disorders. There are a number of unanswered questions related to this disorder: Future research is needed to delineate the severity of the illness over time as well as effective treatment.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Informtation concerning the description, diagnosis, treatment, and research on generalized anxiety disorder. Provided by Internet Mental Health.

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This article, originally featured in Psychopharmacology, presents a comprehensive review of generalized anxiety disorder, a prevalent psychiatric disturbance. Topics addressed include a clinical definition, an epidemiologic profile, and proposed methods of therapeutic management. Provided by Healthline Publishing, Inc.


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