Psychological Medicine

Original Article

Varying temporal criteria for generalized anxiety disorder: prevalence and clinical characteristics in a young age cohort

a1 Zurich University Psychiatric Hospital, Zurich, Switzerland
a2 School of Medicine, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
a3 School of Public Health, Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA

Article author query
angst j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gamma a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
joseph bienvenu o   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
eaton ww   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
ajdacic v   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
eich d   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
rossler w   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Background. This study questions the 6-month duration criterion for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) used in DSM-III-R and DSM-IV.

Method. In adults from age 20/21 to 40/41 in the prospective Zurich Cohort Study, four groups of generalized anxiety syndromes defined by varying duration (2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months and 6 months) were compared.

Results. Applying DSM-III (1979–1999) and DSM-III-R (1986–1999) criteria, there were no significant differences between the four groups in terms of family history of anxiety, work impairment, distress, treatment rates or co-morbidity with major depressive episodes (MDEs), bipolar disorder or suicide attempts. Only social impairment related to the length of episodes. The 6-month criterion of DSM-III-R and DSM-IV GAD would preclude this diagnosis in about half of the subjects treated for generalized anxiety syndromes.

Conclusions. In this epidemiological sample, the 6-month duration criterion for GAD could not be confirmed as clinically meaningful. GAD syndromes of varying duration form a continuum with comparable clinical relevance.

(Published Online May 31 2006)

c1 Zurich University Psychiatric Hospital, Lenggstrasse 31, PO Box 1931, CH-8032 Zurich, Switzerland. (Email:

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