Generalized Anxiety Disorder vs. PTSD

Determining the difference between post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other trauma disorders can be a challenge. Confusing this issue is the fact that PTSD and other anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), often co-occur. Learn the difference between the two so you can learn how to begin the healing process.

Signs and Diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

GAD is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety. While most people experience some worry or anxiety in their lifetime, someone suffering from GAD feels worry and anxiety more often than not.

He or she may also experience the following:

  • Feeling restless or on edge
  • Feeling easily tired
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep pattern disruptions


GAD is differentiated from other anxiety disorders in that symptoms of GAD must be present for at least six months before a diagnosis of the disorder can be made. The Anxiety and Depression Association of American shares that “GAD affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population, in any given year.”1 If you struggle with GAD symptoms, you do not struggle alone.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

PTSD is an anxiety disorder that can develop after an individual experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. You may feel scared, hopeless or helpless. PTSD symptoms may start to interfere with your everyday life. These symptoms may include the following:

  • Sleep pattern disturbances
  • Irritability
  • Angry outbursts
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Hypervigilance
  • Feeling jumpy or easily startled


Additionally, you may begin to re-experience the trauma. Individuals struggling with PTSD may re-experience trauma in the following ways:

  • Flashbacks
  • Hallucinations
  • Bad dreams
  • Psychological or physiological distress


These can stem from mental images, thoughts and feelings. They can be triggered by real events, places or objects. Those struggling with PTSD may try to avoid re-experiencing symptoms by avoiding stimuli associated with the trauma.

This avoidance can look like the following:

  • You or a loved one may not want to talk about, think about or feel anything related to the trauma.
  • You may avoid places, activities and people that remind you of the trauma.
  • You may be unable to recall specifics about the event or events.
  • You may lose interest in things you once cared about.
  • You may feel detached from others.
  • Your emotions may feel or seem blunted.
  • You may have trouble imagining a normal future, life or lifespan.

PTSD symptoms can feel overwhelming, but they don’t have to control your life. You can learn how to manage your PTSD. The National Institute on Mental Health explains that professional treatment, medication and talk therapy offer real symptom relief.2

Telling GAD and PTSD Apart

Many GAD and PTSD symptoms overlap. For example, GAD is characterized by significant anxiety and worry. These are also issues that may surface when an individual struggles with PTSD. With either mental health issue, individuals may avoid places, activities and people in response to anxiety and worry.

Additionally, the two mental health concerns can co-occur. Co-occurrence may arise due to features of one disorder serving as risk factors for the development of the other. An individual who struggles with GAD and then experiences a traumatic event may be more likely to experience symptoms of PTSD. He or she has a pre-existing tendency towards excessive worry and anxiety that can be magnified by witnessing a traumatic event.

You don’t have to diagnose yourself or a loved one before you can get help. Mental health issues require professional diagnosis and treatment. So, if you are struggling with worry and anxiety symptoms, let us help you get an assessment, find recovery solutions and begin a healthy, balanced life. Call 844-675-1221 now.



“Generalized Anxiety Disorder.” The Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Accessed 7 Jun. 2018.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.” National Institute on Mental Health. Feb. 2016.

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