THE IMPACT OF STRESSFUL LIFE EVENTS ON RELAPSE OF GENERALIZED ANXIETY DISORDER


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Abstract

BackgroundStressful life events (SLEs) are associated with the onset of psychiatric disorders but little is known about the effects of SLEs on individuals already diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, particularly generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in which worry about life events is a defining characteristic. This study examined the impact of SLEs on relapse in adults already diagnosed with GAD.MethodsData are obtained from the Harvard/Brown Anxiety Research Project (HARP), a naturalistic longitudinal study of adults with a current or past history of anxiety disorders. One hundred and twelve adults recovered from an episode of GAD and 27 subsequently relapsed during the study. Eight categories of SLEs were assessed via interview and were examined as predictors of GAD relapse.ResultsAn increased total number of SLEs was associated with a higher cumulative probability of relapse into episode of GAD and there was a nonsignificant statistical trend indicating specific categories of SLEs including health, death, and family/friends/household were related to an increased probability of relapse into episodes of GAD.ConclusionsSLEs impact the course of GAD and certain types of stressors may be more relevant to symptomatology than others. The change and uncertainty associated with SLEs may exacerbate existing worry tendencies even among those who have recovered from GAD.

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