It is now generally accepted by professionals that people who suffer from GAD (General Anxiety Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder) tend to get into such a situation because they have been unwittingly engaging in what are termed 'maladaptive coping strategies'.
In other words people with GAD tend to have been using coping techniques to life in general and anxiety in particular, which actually end up making their situation worse. I have reported in previous blogs for example the role avoidance has in strengthening anxiety. It has been found for example that distraction and avoidance techniques used by some therapists can at first mask and then later exacerbate GAD.
A study just published by colleagues at the Department of Psychology, Ryerson University, in Canada has added considerably to our understanding of GAD and what contributes to the onset or creation of this disorder.
The researchers looked at the extent to which 217 people were able to tolerate distress, particularly distress emanating from what are considered to be the 6 prime trigger experiences for distress in humans:
- Negative emotions
- Physical discomfort, and
- The perceived consequences of anxiety
They then measured the subjects for symptoms of GAD and found that GAD sufferers were significantly less likely to be able to tolerate distress from each of the six prime trigger experiences than other people, including people with depression. In effect what they found was that a lack of tolerance for distress is a prime indicator for the development of GAD. This is not the case for depression.
Further they discovered that the level of tolerance an individual has for physical discomfort can be used as a sole predictor for whether or not an individual is likely to end up with GAD.
Whilst the study in itself is interesting, it does provide further insight into therapeutic interventions which can most effectively help GAD sufferers. Building emotional resilience is a key part of the process of recovery from GAD.
MacDonald, E.M. etal (2014) An Examination of Distress Intolerance in Undergraduate Students High in Symptoms of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. Oct 2014 DOI: 10.1080/16506073.2014.964303