Autonomic characteristics of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and worry were examined using measures of heart period variability. The cardiorespiratory responses of 34 GAD clients and 32 nonanxious control subjects were recorded during resting baseline, relaxation, and worry periods. Results indicated differences between GAD subjects and controls as well as among baseline, relaxation, and worry periods. GAD clients exhibited shorter cardiac interbeat intervals (IBIs) and lower high frequency spectral power across all task conditions. Relative to baseline and relaxation conditions, worry was associated with (1) shorter IBIs, (2) smaller mean successive differences (MSD) of the cardiac IBIs, and (3) lower high frequency spectral power. These findings suggest that GAD and its cardinal feature (worry), are associated with lower cardiac vagal control. The findings of the present study provide evidence for the utility of further exploration of the role of autonomic nervous system activity in GAD.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biological Psychiatry