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Monday, August 17, 2009

Perspectives of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

A variety of theories have been explored to try to explain why people develop Generalized Anxiety Disorder. In order to understand how the disease manifested itself one must look at the sociocultural factors, the psychological factors, and the biological factors. Using these perspectives, we can attempt to understand what caused the Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Just as we look at the sociocultural, psychological, and biological perspectives to try and figure out the cause of the disorder; we can look at those three perspectives to formulate treatment plans.

The sociocultural perspective theorizes that Generalized Anxiety Disorder arises when people are in poor social conditions; ones that may even be hazardous. According to Comer (2007), studies show that those living in threatening conditions are more likely to develop symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Societal stress can be tied to poverty; which in turn is tied to a higher crime rate. According to Comer (2007), there are 90 victims of violent crime per 1,000 poor persons. Whereas, there are 50 victims per 1,000 middle income people and 40 victims per 1,000 wealthy individuals. In the U.S., the rate of generalized Anxiety disorder is twice as high among with people with low incomes compared to those with higher incomes (Comer, 2007). Clearly, there is a tie between sociocultural issues and generalized anxiety disorder.

When one ponders the treatment plan for someone with sociocultural issues; one must be very sensitive to the fact of the client’s living conditions and place in society. According to Comer (2007), clinicians believe that biological or psychological conditions or both contribute to the disorders evolution. Therefore, an integrative approach in therapy would be the best treatment plan.

Evaluating Generalized Anxiety Disorder from a psychological perspective includes several factors. From the psychodynamic perspective, one factor is early developmental experiences. Sigmund Freud believed that some children were more prone to Generalized Anxiety Disorder due to being overrun by neurotic or moral anxiety (Comer, 2007). Another factor is that overprotected children don’t have the opportunity to develop effective defense mechanisms (Comer, 2007). Many theorists believe the disorder can be traced to discrepancies regarding the relationship between child and parent early in their lives (Comer, 2007). Using the Humanistic perspective, other psychological factors may include when people stop looking at themselves with acceptance. According to Comer (2007), those who do not receive unconditional positive regard from others may be overly critical and have harsh self standards later in life. This in turn may cause Generalized Anxiety Disorder. From the cognitive perspective, another factor that contributes to the psychological perspective is the cognitive perspective, which theorizes that dysfunctional ways of thinking and excessive worry cause Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

From these various psychological theories of why Generalized Anxiety Disorder occurs; many treatment options are available. For the psychodynamic perspective; psychodynamic therapy is used. These therapies include using free association and using interpretations of transference, resistance, and dreams. These treatments try to identify childhood problems and settle them so they would no longer produce anxiety in adulthood. Client centered therapy is a good treatment approach for the humanistic perspective. From the cognitive perspective, clinicians help their client change their maladaptive assumptions. Another therapy helps the client to recognize and change their dysfunctional worrying.

From the biological perspective, theorists believe biological factors are the culprit that causes Generalized Anxiety Disorder. According to Comer (2007), 15 percent of the relatives of people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder display it themselves. One theory is that there is poor gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) reception. Another theory is that people may have too few GABA receptors or their GABA receptors do not capture the neurotransmitter (Comer, 2007).

Biological treatments include antianxiety drugs, relaxation training, and biofeedback.
One must take the sociocultural, psychological, and biological factors into perspective when diagnosing and treating Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Using all three perspectives, one can paint a whole picture of what is causing the disorder as well as how to treat it.


Comer, R. J. (2007). Abnormal Psychology (6th ed.). New York: Worth Publishers.