Symptom Change in CBT for Generalized Anxiety Disorder

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) may have a greater effect on symptom change in generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) than applied relaxation (AR). The current study sought to determine if change in worry accounts for change over time in somatic anxiety to the same degree in CBT and AR. Participants (treatment-seeking adults with GAD) were assigned to receive 12 weeks of either CBT (n=31) or AR (n=26).

At post-treatment, participants in both treatment groups experienced significant reductions in somatic anxiety and time spent worrying. On average, worrying was reduced from 5-6 hours per day to 3 hours per day. However, change in worry accounted for subsequent change in somatic anxiety to a much greater extent in the CBT group than the AR group. When treatment focused on reducing worry, 49.95% of somatic anxiety was also reduced among participants in the CBT Group, and just 25.87% among participants in the AR group. These results suggest that although two treatments may have similar efficacies at post treatment, the mechanisms of change may differ. Further, these results demonstrate that CBT produces symptom change in a manner that is consistent with the theoretical underpinnings on which treatment is based.

Donegan, E., and Dugas, M. (2012) Generalized anxiety disorder: A comparison of adults receiving cognitive behavioral therapy or applied relaxation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(3), 490-496.

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