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DSM-IV Diagnostic Criteria for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Official Symptoms and Diagnosis Guidelines


Updated June 03, 2014

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The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed; DSM-IV) is the book used by qualified mental health professionals to make a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The following is a summary of the required symptom makeup to be used as a guide. However, it is important to know that only a qualified professional who also relies on clinical judgment can make an accurate diagnosis.

A. At least 6 months of "excessive anxiety and worry" about a variety of events and situations. Generally, "excessive" can be interpreted as more than would be expected for a particular situation or event. Most people become anxious over certain things, but the intensity of the anxiety typically corresponds to the situation.

B. There is significant difficulty in controlling the anxiety and worry. If someone has a very difficult struggle to regain control, relax, or cope with the anxiety and worry, then this requirement is met.

C. The presence for most days over the previous six months of 3 or more (only 1 for children) of the following symptoms:
1. Feeling wound-up, tense, or restless
2. Easily becoming fatigued or worn-out
3. Concentration problems
4. Irritability
5. Significant tension in muscles
6. Difficulty with sleep
D. The symptoms are not part of another mental disorder.

E. The symptoms cause "clinically significant distress" or problems functioning in daily life. "Clinically significant" is the part that relies on the perspective of the treatment provider. Some people can have many of the aforementioned symptoms and cope with them well enough to maintain a high level of functioning.

F. The condition is not due to a substance or medical issue

Source: American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th Ed., Text Revision). Washington DC: American Psychiatric Association.

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