Generalized Anxiety Disorder vs. PTSD: The Differences

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Last Updated on April 25, 2021 by

You may have PTSD symptoms and wonder if your reaction to an event was normal or if you are experiencing something more serious. Understanding the differences between General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is essential to identify your best course of treatment of PTSD symptoms. 

Being able to differentiate between PTSD symptoms and other forms of trauma can be challenging. Since PTSD symptoms co-occur with other disorders, such as a general anxiety disorder (GAD), this leads to an even more confusing issue. To better understand the issues involved, you need to better understand the differences between them, so you can begin to begin your healing process.

Both Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and PTSD symptoms are can happen together at the same time. Because PTSD symptoms can be manifested differently in different people, this does not come as a huge surprise.

The different causes, symptoms, and manifestations of this disorder may lead to several other disturbances that are also uniquely characterized by their distinctive signs, causes, and exhibitions. Aside from GAD, co-occurring ailments like panic disorders, social anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD); particular phobias can occur.

Knowing the Basics of General Anxiety Disorder

There’s much more to generalized anxiety disorder than just a little anxious thinking and fretting now and then. It’s characterized by an out-of-control anxiousness that occurs over six months.

People typically spend a lot of their days worrying about things they cannot control, which makes their work and relationships suffer. Worrying so much about something that is beyond their control causes them to waste their time learning how to handle the situation.

General Anxiety Disorder: Signs and Diagnosis

GAD patients experience excessive anxiety and worry regularly than people without the disorder, as these symptoms are inherently associated with the disorder.

Having Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by systematically and persistently high levels of anxiety in various situations and parts of the life of an individual. Patients suffering from GAD are commonly described as anxious individuals or people that worry too much. 

A person suffering from this condition may also experience visible manifestations of distress like tissue strains or headaches, trouble sleeping or focusing, and irritation. A person’s response to something causing them to be concerned can sometimes seem unreasonable or unusual.

GAD signs can sometimes be asymptomatic, although they usually need to be present for a considerable period before they can be diagnosed.

The Person May Also Experience the Following:

  • Having a restless feeling or being on edge
  • Having an easy time getting tired
  • Having difficulty focusing
  • Impatience
  • Tensions in the muscle
  • Disruptions of sleeping patterns

GAD’s signs should last for half a year compared to other types of anxiety disorders before you can be diagnosed with the disorder. GAD affects 6.8% of the adult population, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of Americans. You are not alone if you struggle with GAD symptoms.

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What is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

One of the things that may indicate that a person is suffering from PTSD symptoms is when they’ve experienced a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, a war/combat, a personal injury, or sexual violence and have been a victim of that act.

The experience of traumatic events and PTSD symptoms may not only last long after they have occurred but bring up intense, troubling thoughts and feelings that last long after they have stopped. 

They may feel as if they are passing through a flashback or a nightmare reminding them of the event, experiencing feelings of sadness, fear, or anger, and being isolated from other people. 

A person with PTSD symptoms may avoid situations or people that remind them of the traumatic event and may react to even routine events like loud noises or an accident touch strongly.

Traumatic events may occur indirectly rather than directly, so PTSD symptoms may be a result of witnessing a close relative or friend die violently. Witnessing horrifying details of trauma can also be enough to trigger PTSD symptoms in individuals such as police officers witnessing child abuse cases.

What are the Symptoms of PTSD?

An individual may develop PTSD symptoms after experiencing or witnessing something life-changing. You may feel scared or hopeless. PTSD symptoms may begin to interfere with your everyday life.

These PTSD Symptoms May Include:

  • Disturbances in sleeping patterns
  • Feeling irritable
  • Feelings of anger outburst
  • Having trouble focusing
  • Extremely vigilant
  • Being easily startled or feeling jumpy

Furthermore, someone struggling with PTSD may experience the trauma again. Re-experiencing trauma in the following ways may help with PTSD symptoms:

  • Flashbacks
  • Illusions
  • Scary dreams
  • The stress of any kind, whether psychological or physiological

These PTSD symptoms may occur as a result of mental images, thoughts, and feelings, or they may be triggered by real events, places, or objects. In people with PTSD, they may attempt to avoid symptom occurrence by avoiding stimuli that trigger PTSD symptoms.

The Following Examples are Examples of Avoidance: 

  • The PTSD symptoms may be so painful to you that you don’t want to remember, talk about, or feel anything about it.
  • People, places, and activities that remind you of the trauma may annoy you.
  • Details about the occurrence or occurrences could escape your memory.
  • Your interest in something you used to care about may wane.
  • Feeling disconnected from people may make you feel detached from yourself.
  • Feeling or seeming blunt might be the case.
  • It may be hard for you to envision a normal life, future, or lifespan.

It is possible to learn how to manage PTSD symptoms through professional treatment, medication, and therapy. The National Institute on Mental Health describes that medical treatment provides real symptom relief.

How Does Gad Relate to PTSD?

Approximately 1 in 6 individuals with PTSD symptoms will suffer from GAD, according to some research. Although we do not know exactly why they coexist, worrying is one of the most common PTSD symptoms. 

In a hyperaroused emotional state, the worry may become exaggerated until it is caused to become insurmountable. Many people even turn to their worrying as a way to cope with stressful situations.

A person with PTSD symptoms will often say that being distracted by worry about other factors or troubles takes their attention away from events or memories that make them feel the most upset.

Worry can be used as a distraction for people to remain anonymous about their fears and worries. Another potential reason is that both conditions are induced by similar experiences. A past ordeal is an underlying reason why PTSD symptoms appear, but it is also a trigger for GAD.

Differentiating GAD from PTSD

There is no universal test that can identify whether a person has GAD, or if he or she is suffering from GAD. Patients of GAD have a longstanding pattern of anxiety, which often occurs in a variety of situations and under various circumstances. 

In contrast, people with PTSD symptoms often find themselves experiencing extreme anxiety levels and other signs while responding to a debilitating life event. PTSD symptoms, which can sometimes be generalized with other conditions, are usually confined to a particular event.

A person can have both GAD and PTSD, but a traumatic event can aggravate GAD-based anxiety, which is why professional diagnosis will be crucial for successful treatment. Please visit a healthcare provider today to get a reliable analysis.

GAD and PTSD share many similarities. For example, GAD symptoms include significant anxiety and worries, which are also common when someone has PTSD symptoms. Whether it is anxiety or depression, people on regular medication may avoid the places, activities, and people they have experienced in the past in response to fear and discomfort. Moreover, the two mental disorders can occur simultaneously. Co-occurrences can be due to the one disorder serving as a risk factor for the other to occur. 

People with GAD can be more likely than others to experience PTSD symptoms after witnessing a traumatic event. Such individuals might struggle with exaggerated worry and anxiety, which can persist despite witnessing a traumatic incident.

PTSD is Commonly Accompanied by Other Disorders

GAD and PTSD can co-exist, as can several conditions such as schizoaffective disorders, that share similar symptoms. They include:

  • With PTSD, panic attacks can be very common as well as PD. Anxiety disorders include constant anxious thoughts about future attacks and repeated unexpected panic attacks.
  • Those having PTSD symptoms suffer from social anxiety disorder where they have intense fears and avoid social situations when they are likely to be observed by others.
  • Getting scared of certain objects or situations (lifts, platforms, tops) is characterized by specific phobias, occurring in approximately 30% of people with PTSD.
  • Over 35 percent of individuals suffering from PTSD could have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a disorder that has been studied less concerning PTSD. Throughout this condition, intrusive and excessive obsessive thoughts are observed and obsessive behaviors or activities repeated over and over to avoid these thoughts (compulsions).

Mental health issues require professional diagnosis and treatment of PTSD symptoms. You don’t have to diagnose yourself or a family member to receive help. 

Getting an assessment of PTSD symptoms, recovery solutions, and starting a healthy, balanced life are all part of why you need us if you are suffering from worry and anxiety symptoms. Call us today at 615-490-9376 to get help with PTSD symptoms.