Externally Triggered Anxiety and Generalised Anxiety Disorder... What's The Difference?

There are many, MANY different types of anxiety disorders. Far too many to discuss in a short blog, so here we are going talk briefly about two - Externally Triggered Anxiety and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) .

The main difference between Externally triggered anxiety and GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder) is that a dog suffering with GAD remains in a state of anxiety regardless of any environmental change or presence of any stimuli which the dog finds aversive.

Another noticeable difference is the increased duration of time needed for the dog suffering GAD to recover back to a state of Rest & Digest, after being in the Fight or Flight response. In comparison, a dog suffering with Externally triggered anxiety will recover from a stressful experience far quicker. A dog suffering GAD, however, may never fully relax or may only relax at night when everything else is still.

Similarities can be seen between both types of anxiety in the physical symptoms which manifest. These vary for the individual, are not inclusive and may not be present in some dogs. Common

symptoms include trembling, pacing, vocalisation, urinating/defecating, destructiveness, weight loss, diarrhoea/constipation, loss of appetite, lack of focus and behavioural changes such as hyper-arousal, reactivity and obsessive behaviours.

Whilst these symptoms are common to both GAD and Externally triggered anxiety, it is important to remember that they are also indicators and symptoms of other conditions and consequently it is vital that these symptoms are presented to a veterinary professional or diagnoses prior to behavioural treatment.

You can easily tell the difference between a dog suffering with sensitisation to one specific trigger and a dog who is constantly generating anxiety within themselves by first looking for indicators from how you would describe them (or how the guardian describes them). Dogs suffering with Externally triggered anxiety, or a sensitisation to a particular trigger, will often be described as ‘happy’ or ‘relaxed’ in different situations or environments whilst the guardian of a dog suffering GAD may describe their dog as ‘miserable’ or ‘unhappy’ regardless of context.

Where sensitisation to a stimulus is indicated then removal of the trigger will show a clear difference between the two types of anxiety. Dog suffering anxiety towards a particular stimulus will show a decrease of anxiety in a short time after the removal of this trigger. Whilst a dog who is creating the anxiety within themselves (the GAD sufferer) will show no decrease in anxiety with the removal of any stimuli because this dog is continuously anticipating the next threat and remains close to their coping threshold.

If you think your dog may be suffering from any form of anxiety then please contact a Force Free professional for diagnosis and guidance.

Karen Fairclough


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