City Research Online

The lived experience of adults with generalised anxiety disorder

Young, L. (2019). The lived experience of adults with generalised anxiety disorder. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)


Despite the fact that generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most frequent anxiety disorder and the second most frequent psychiatric disorder in clinical settings (Wittchen, Kessler, Beesdo, Krause, Höfler, & Hoyer, 2002), it is significantly under-detected and under-treated (Wittchen & Jacobi, 2005). There is also a lack of empirical literature on the lived experience of GAD. Considered together, this information highlights the need for a greater understanding of GAD. This study sought to address the gap in the literature, and thus contribute to this need, by exploring the lived experience of adults with GAD. Potential participants with a formal diagnosis of GAD were recruited via purposive sampling. Initial telephone screenings were conducted, during which they completed the Generalized Anxiety Disorder Questionnaire IV (GAD-Q-IV; Newman, Zuellig, Kachin, Constantino, Przeworski, Erickson, & Cashman-McGrath, 2002). A minimum total score of 7.67 was required to meet this questionnaire’s GAD diagnostic criteria. Eight participants who met this requirement participated in one semi-structured interview. Data were analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) and four super-ordinate themes were developed. "Battling with uncertainty: What’s going to happen next?" captured participants’ difficulty tolerating uncertainty and consequent absence of perceived control over their life-worlds. "A struggle for autonomy: You either let it get a hold of you, or you get a hold of it" captured participants’ continuous struggle for perceived control over their senses of self, as GAD takes over. "GAD and interpersonal relations: Worrying about what others think" explored the interactions between participants’ experiences of GAD and their relationships with others. "The need to create meaning amid uncertainty and loss: GAD is an eye-opener" explored participants’ attempts to locate meaning within their distress in order to tolerate the uncertainty, torment, and losses GAD has caused. The findings are discussed in relation to existing literature. Their implications for counselling psychology and the wider context are then considered as well as suggestions for future research.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Doctoral Theses
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
School of Health & Psychological Sciences > School of Health & Psychological Sciences Doctoral Theses
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