During a discussion with my therapist recently I learned that some of my symptoms are reflective of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Until she mentioned this, it hadn’t occured to me. However, I must admint, she does have a point. I’ve always been a worry wart, and find my anxiety the most difficult to manage on a daily basis. Anxiety urges us to action perceived in that moment as a solution to our concerns and fears. When overcome with anxiety, I try my best to “keep it in check”. However, sometimes it does get the better than me, and I react in an irrational and/or poorly-thought-out manner. What follows is a quick review of research that provides interesting causal explanation for G.A.D….
Beliefs & G.A.D.
Koerner, et al, (2015) note that certain beliefs about worry correlate with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, including “negative beliefs about uncertainty, and schemas reflecting unrelenting standards…the need to self-sacrifice…and less positive views of other people and their intentions” (p. 441). Additionally, how we view worry effects the way we handle and mange this emotion. “When individuals encounter a threatening situation, positive beliefs about the usefulness of worry are activated, which in turn initiate worrying as a coping strategy” (Koerner, et al, 2015).
Stressful Life Events & G.A.D.
Life events play a role as precipitating factors in the onset of generalized anxiety disorders and panic disorders….The objective of this study was to investigate the frequency, specificity and typology of stressful life events occurring in patients with generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder…A significant proportion of patients in both groups reported stressful life events occurring in the year before the onset (87.5% in the group with generalized anxiety disorder and 76.3% in the group with panic disorder). More patients in the panic disorder group have reported events of the “loss” type and at least one event considered to be severe and very important compared to the generalized anxiety disorder patients. A significant proportion of patients in both groups have reported conflict and events involving threats. (Romosan, et al, 2004, p. 36).
Theoretical Interpretations of G.A.D.
A Psychoanalytic Perspective…
“According to psychoanalytic theorists, individuals with anxiety experienced difficult early relationships with unavailable and unresponsive caretakers In psychodynamic models, psychopathology is understood to occur as a result of excessive defenses against anxiety and guilt-producing, mixed feelings toward loved ones.” (Greenberg & Watson, 2017, p. 20-21)
A Learning Theory Perspective
From a learning theory point of view, people are anxious and fearful of feelings that are associated with negative outcomes. Learning theory approaches to GAD have suggested that uncontrollable and unpredictable aversive events may play an important role in the devel- opment of GAD (Greenberg & Watson, p. 21)
C.B.T. & G.A.D.
“Cognitive behavioral worry is a result of problems with affect regulation, including (a) heightened intensity of emotions, (b) limited understanding of emotions, (c) negative responses to current emotions, and (d) unhelpful management of emotions. According to this view, GAD results from deficits in affect regulation with an over reliance on worry to manage diffiult emotional experiences” (Greenberg & Watson, 2017, p. 23)
Carl Rogers & G.A.D.
“Rogers suggested that anxiety occurs when the needs of the organism are in conflict with introjected conditions of worth from signi cant others. Fully functioning people do not need to distort experience…with introjected conditions of worth” (Greenberg & Watson, 2017, p. 24)
Existential theorists see anxiety as a core part of the human condition and as an unavoidable component of life. In their view, anxiety results from individuals having to face choices without clear guidelines and without knowing what the outcomes will be, and from being aware that they are ultimately responsible for the consequences of their actions…existential view sees anxiety as stemming from the inability to cope with the challenge of living and to choose to live in a healthy and productive way.” (Greenberg, & Watson, 2017, p. 24)
E.F.T. & G.A.D.
Repeated exposure to threatening, painful, and negative life events…without adequate protection, soothing, and nurturing compromises people’s emotional processing and affect regulation capacity, as well as their identity formation…If needs for connection and protection go unmet, individuals become distressed and their feelings of fear, sadness, and shame remain inadequately symbolized and soothed….These children feel solely responsible for their well-being. The lived experience plus the harmful situation are coded in emotion schematic memory. Thus, from an EFT perspective, an important contributor to GAD is the inability of people to process their emotions and soothe, comfort, and protect themselves when experiencing distress so as to return to a state of peace and calm.” (Greenberg & Watson, 2017, p. 25).