Generalized anxiety disorder. An important clinical concern.
GAD is common, often follows a chronic course, and usually is associated with extensive psychiatric and medical comorbidity. This disorder often presents in a primary care setting, commonly with somatic symptoms; it is important for primary care physicians to be aware of its existence, forms of presentation, and different treatments. GAD appears to be twice as common in women than men. There is some evidence that the neurobiologic basis of GAD may involve abnormalities in neurochemical, neuroendocrine, neurophysiologic, and neuroanatomic factors. Research on psychosocial treatment of GAD has favored the combination of cognitive therapy and relaxation techniques or anxiety management training. It also appears that relapse rates after termination of cognitive-behavioral therapy are low. Taking into consideration that GAD generally is chronic and associated frequently with depressive symptoms, the ideal pharmacotherapy may be a drug that can treat these comorbid disorders adequately. New antidepressants, especially those with action in the serotonin system and possibly noradrenergic, may be the appropriate option: They not only treat anxiety, but also treat or prevent the development of comorbid depression; they should be effective ideally during prolonged periods without risks related to addiction or withdrawal, such as may happen with benzodiazepines and some antidepressants. The role of newly emerging drugs, such as some anticonvulsants, in GAD needs to be defined more clearly. More research is warranted to address issues such as (1) whether pharmacotherapy is as effective, less effective, or more effective than cognitive-behavioral therapy; (2) whether antidepressants improve the rate of wellness or remission; and (3) whether prolonged antidepressant therapy for GAD protects against later emergent depression.
Hidalgo, RB; Davidson, JR
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