Effects of Generalized Anxiety Disorder on Patients’ Social Lives

People who are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder are said to have difficulties in interpersonal and social relationships. This study involved two experiments that analyzed patients suffering from anxiety disorders. The tested individuals showed specific problems that can affect interpersonal interactions. These individuals were found to have one of the four interpersonal characteristics, namely, intrusiveness, exploitability, coldness and non-assertiveness. The identification of these interpersonal subtypes will help the development of treatments and assessment of their efficacy in anxiety disorder patients.

Recent studies on generalized anxiety disorder has suggested that there is a complex interplay of problems in their interpersonal relationships, which underlie the pathology of the condition. Anxiety disorders are often a personality trait that become chronic and affect the quality of life of the individual. Studies have found an association between anxiety disorders and interpersonal interactions and relations. It is commonly seen that those with anxiety disorders have certain characteristic behaviors such as fear, anxiety, avoidance, insecurity, and worry, in their early childhood. The present study evaluated the interpersonal characteristics of patients with anxiety disorders, and investigated the effects of their worries and anxieties on their relationships.

* Two separate studies were conducted on 130 participants. The first study included 47 participants (18 to 65 years of age) with generalized anxiety disorder, of whom 65 percent were females. The study excluded those with panic disorders, depression, or other ailments. Of these, 4 percent were on psychiatric drugs.
* The participants were asked to answer questionnaires that had anxiety related tests. The second study included 83 participants (18 to 65 years of age) of which 74.7 percent were females. Patients with concomitant depressive ailments and panic disorders were also included. Of these, 32 percent were on psychiatric drugs.
* These participants were also given questionnaires and anxiety related tests to complete.

Key findings
* The first study showed that there were four distinct subtypes of interpersonal problems, and these had a link with anxiety disorders.
* The four subtypes identified in the participants were “intrusive” (27.7 percent of the participants), “exploitable” (31.9 percent), “cold” (21.28 percent) and “nonassertive” (19.15 percent).
* The second study was a larger version of the first study, and confirmed the findings of the first study.
* Additionally, the second study showed that 95 percent in the nonassertive subtype, 47.1 percent in the exploitable subtype and 64 percent of the cold and intrusive subtypes had a concomitant personality disorder.

Next steps/Shortcomings
Since the sample of patients consisted mostly of Caucasians, the authors maintain that the results in different ethnicities and races could be different. Moreover, two thirds of both the study samples were women. The psychological interplay for men could be different. Authors suggest further studies on larger populations with age, sex and racial diversities to confirm the findings of this study.

This study is an assimilation of findings of two studies on generalized anxiety disorder patients. High level of anxiety and worry in these patients affects their interpersonal and social lives. It is seen that those who are intrusive, cold, exploitable or nonassertive tend to damage their interpersonal relationships. Similar results were found in those with personality disorders, depressive ailments and panic disorders. This study can help in further understanding the pathophysiology of anxiety disorders, and could help in the formulation of better diagnostic and treatment plans for this common psychiatric ailment that severely affects the quality of life and interpersonal relationships.

For More Information:
Interpersonal Pathoplasticity in Individuals with Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Publication Journal: Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2011
By Amy Przeworski; Michelle G. Newman; Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio and the Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania

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