Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is a common anxiety disorder in which the person excessively worries about a variety of different topics. This worry is excessive and uncontrollable in nature and associated with additional symptoms of anxiety (i.e. restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep difficulties).
People with GAD often hold positive beliefs about worry. For example, they may believe that worry makes the person more conscientious or provides possible solutions to problems. Thus, there is a conflict between the fear that worry is uncontrollable and the belief that worry protects the person.
People with GAD also often experience intolerance of uncertainty. This is when a person assumes that an uncertain situation, such as a new experience, is going to lead to something bad happening. People with high intolerance of uncertainty often have worries characterized by “what if…” statements. GAD can be effectively treated using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT).
CBT is an evidence-based, focused, goal-oriented therapy that combines cognitive and behavioral techniques to treat a wide-range of psychological disorders. The underlying assumption of CBT is that thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are interrelated, therefore, a change in one domain will invariably lead to changes in other domains.
Cognitive techniques are designed to help clients learn to identify and modify distorted thinking and maladaptive beliefs in order to reduce emotional intensity and problematic behaviors. Behavioral techniques are designed to help clients to identify dysfunctional behaviors that may be the result of distorted thinking or maladaptive beliefs and replace these behaviors with more adaptive behaviors.
The ultimate goal of CBT is to identify, evaluate, and respond to dysfunctional thought and behavior patterns in order to reduce overall distress and improve functioning.
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