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Generalized anxiety disorder: How do you treat it?


Generalized anxiety disorder plan for treatment: 

generalized anxiety disorderIndividuals presenting with generalized anxiety disorder have symptoms that include physiological arousal (restlessness, muscle tension, sleep disturbances), along with cognitive symptoms (worry, difficulty controlling worry, and inability to concentrate). The goals of treatment for generalized anxiety disorder using a cognitive behavioral approach are usually to reduce the overall level of autonomic arousal, decrease the level of concern about worry, and to assist the individual in reducing their overall level of worry to a reasonable and functional level.  Since they are usually worried about a variety of situations and themes, “general" interventions are frequently utilized.  Therapists will use interventions such as progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, breathing relaxation, and the behavioral treatment of insomnia in order to reduce an individual's overall level of anxious arousal, and will employ a variety of cognitive interventions to address the worry. 


Generalized anxiety disorder and worry: 

The relationship of worry to generalized anxiety disorder is a fundamental one. The cognitive interventions for generalized anxiety disorder include assisting the patient to distinguish between productive and unproductive worry, addressing the patient’s concern that worrying too much may be harmful, along with helping him or her to learn to distinguish between anxiety and actual facts.  Since a patient with generalized anxiety disorder is usually worrying throughout the day, the clinician may assist the patient to limit worrying to a "worry time" and will help the patient to monitor the various themes associated with worry.  Finally, the treatment approach may help to assist the patient to recognize that he or she may be very able to cope with a variety of problems if they should arise. 

Generalized anxiety disorder and other mental disorders: 

Treatment of patients with generalized anxiety disorder often involves addressing more than one disorder, since 83-91% have comorbid disorders such as depression and other anxiety disorders.  In practice, various treatments are used including cognitive behavioral treatments which focus on the thoughts associated with generalized anxiety disorder as well as relaxation techniques which are frequently used simultaneously.  Moreover, since generalized anxiety disorder is often comorbid with depression or other anxiety disorders, the clinician will usually need to employ treatment modalities associated with those specific disorders as well.  Early treatment concerns involve consideration of the necessity of medication, socialization to the therapy model and relaxation training.  Because of its generalized and chronic nature, generalized anxiety disorder is not easily treated, although studies frequently report success utilizing medication and primarily cognitive behavioral methods. 

Some information from Treatment Plans and Interventions for Depression and Anxiety Disorders by Robert L. Leahy and Stephen J. Holland 

Additional information and web page by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

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