Is generalized anxiety disorder an anxiety or mood disorder? Considering multiple factors as we ponder the fate of GAD

  • Mennin D
  • Heimberg R
  • Fresco D
 et al. 
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Abstract

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) demonstrate a strong relationship to each other at both genotypic and phenotypic levels, and both demonstrate substantial loadings on a higher-order negative affectivity factor [see Watson, 2005: J Abnorm Psychol 114:522-536]. On the basis of these findings, there have been a number of calls to reclassify GAD in the same category as MDD (the "distress disorders"). However, any consideration of the reclassification of GAD should also take into account a number of other factors not only related to GAD and MDD but also to the overlap of these disorders with other anxiety and mood disorders. First, GAD has established reliability and validity in its own right, and specific features (e.g., worry) may become obscured by attempts at reclassification. Second, examination of the nature of the overlap of GAD and MDD with each other and with other disorders suggests a more complex pattern of differences between these conditions than has been suggested (e.g., MDD has strong relationships with other anxiety disorders, and GAD may be more strongly related to fear than it may first appear). Third, although findings suggest that GAD and MDD may have overlapping heritable characteristics, other evidence suggests that the two disorders may be distinguished by both environmental factors and temporal presentations. Finally, although overlap between GAD and MDD is reflected in their relationships to negative affectivity, temporal relationships between these disorders may be demonstrated by functional changes in emotional responsivity.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Comorbidity
  • DSM-V
  • Diagnosis
  • Emotion
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Major depression

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