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Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder. The original version of these slides was provided by Michael W. Otto, Ph.D. with support from NIMH Excellence in Training Award at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders at Boston University (R25 MH08478).

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cognitive behavioral treatment of generalized anxiety disorder

Cognitive Behavioral Treatment of Generalized Anxiety Disorder

The original version of these slides was provided by

Michael W. Otto, Ph.D.

with support from NIMH Excellence in Training Award at the Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders

at Boston University

(R25 MH08478)

use of this slide set
Use of this Slide Set
  • Presentation information is listed in the notes section below the slide (in PowerPoint normal viewing mode).
  • A bibliography for this slide set is provided below in the note section for this slide.
  • References are also provided in note sections for select subsequent slides.
slide set outline
Slide Set Outline
  • Treatment outcome findings
      • Perspectives across meta analyses
  • Treatment models
      • Similarities (over differences)
  • Elements of treatment
      • What is accomplished in session
  • Future directions
generalized anxiety disorder diagnostic considerations
Generalized Anxiety Disorder:Diagnostic Considerations
  • Pervasive worry and chronic arousal
  • Residual category of panic disorder in DSM-III
  • Spheres of worry in DSM-III-R and chronic arousal
  • Excessive and uncontrollable worry and 3 of 6 symptoms in DSM-IV
      • restless, keyed up, on edge
      • easily fatigued
      • difficulties concentrating
      • irritability
      • muscle tension
      • sleep disturbance
core patterns in gad
Core Patterns in GAD
  • Uncontrollable worry
  • Future orientation
  • Negative cognitive biases
  • Somatic arousal
  • Role and task inefficiency
  • Interpersonal aversiveness (unbalanced relationships)
gad core treatment elements
GAD: Core Treatment Elements
  • Information
  • Applied Relaxation
  • Cognitive Restructuring (probability estimates, coping estimates)
  • Cue-Controlled Worry (worry times + problem solving)
  • Worry Exposure (including existential topics)
  • Mindfulness
meta analyses 5 perspectives
Meta-Analyses: 5 Perspectives
  • All Randomized Trials (pre-post)
      • Norton & Price, 2007
  • Placebo-Controlled Trials (controlled effect size)
      • Hofmann & Smits, 2008
  • Elements of Treatment (controlled effect size)
      • Gould et al., 2004
  • Differential Efficacy (pre-post)
      • Siev & Chambless, 2007
      • Gould et al., 2004
  • Effectiveness Trials (pre-post)
      • Stewart & Chambless, 2009
meta analysis of randomized anxiety trials of cbt within es norton price 2007 jnmd
Meta-Analysis of Randomized Anxiety Trials of CBT (within ES)Norton & Price, 2007, JNMD

Effect Size (d)

hofmann smits 2008 meta analysis
Hofmann & Smits (2008) Meta-Analysis
  • Meta-analysis of well-controlled trials of CBT for anxiety
  • Inclusion criteria:
    • Random assignment to either CBT or placebo
    • The psychological placebo had to involve interventions to control for nonspecific factors (e.g., regular contact with a therapist, reasonable rationale for the intervention, discussions of the psychological problem)
meta analysis of controlled trials of cbt between es hofmann smits 2008 j clin psychiatry
Meta-Analysis of Controlled Trials of CBT (Between ES)Hofmann & Smits, 2008, J Clin Psychiatry

Effect Size (g)

gould et al 2004 meta analysis
Gould et al., 2004 Meta-Analysis
  • 16 studies
  • Mean drop-out rate 11.4%
  • Mean 10.1 hours of treatment
  • No difference in outcome for studies allowing stabilized medications
  • Maintenance of treatment gains across 6 months
specificity of treatment siev chambless 2007 jccp
Specificity of Treatment(Siev & Chambless, 2007, JCCP)
  • GAD CT = RT
  • Panic Disorder CT* > RT
  • Cognitive Therapy (CT) includes interoceptive exposure
  • Relaxation Therapy (RT)
comorbidity and treatment newman et al 2010
Comorbidity and Treatment(Newman et al., 2010)
  • 76 treatment seeking adults with GAD
  • 14 sessions of treatment
  • 60.5% had comorbidity
  • Comorbid diagnosis linked to greater GAD severity at pretreatment
  • Greater change with treatment for those with comorbid depression, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia
  • Normal maintenance of treatment gains
  • Benefits to social anxiety disorder and specific phobia were maintained over 2 years, whereas benefits to depression were not
cbt models of gad behar et al 2009 j anx dis
CBT Models of GAD (Behar et al., 2009, J Anx Dis)
  • Avoidance Model of Worry and GAD
      • (Borkovec, 1994; Borkovec et al., 2004)
  • Intolerance of Uncertainty Model
      • (Dugas et al., 1995; Freeston et al., 1994)
  • Metacognitive Model
      • (Wells, 1995)
  • Emotion Dysregulation Model
      • (Mennin et al., 2002)
  • Acceptance-Based Model of Generalized Anxiety Disorder
      • (Roemer & Orsillo, 2002, 2005)
wells 1999
Wells (1999)
  • “Worry is a chain of catastrophising thoughts that are predominantly verbal. It consists of the contemplation of potentially dangerous situations and of personal coping strategies. It is intrusive and controllable although it is often experienced as uncontrollable. Worrying is associated with a motivation to prevent or avoid potential danger. Worry itself may be viewed as a coping strategy but can become the focus of …concern.”
two types of worry dugas ladouceur 2000
Two Types of Worry (Dugas & Ladouceur, 2000)
  • Situations amenable to problem solving
    • Training in step-by-step problem solving
  • Situations that are not amenable to problem solving (hypothetical problems that never happen)
    • Worry times
    • Worry exposure
avoidance function of worry
Avoidance Function of Worry
  • Worry, a verbal process, inhibits vivid mental imagery and associated anxiety (Borkovec)
  • Evidence that it does attenuate:
    • somatic arousal at rest (Hoehn-Saric & McLeod, 1988; Hoehn-Saric, McLeod, & Zimmerli, 1989; Lyonfields, Borkovec, & Thayer, 1995; Thayer, Friedman, &Borkovec, 1996)
    • upon subsequent exposure to threat-related material (Borkovec & Hu, 1990; Peasley-Miklus & Vrana, 2000)
worry and conditioning
Worry and Conditioning
  • Non-clinical levels of worry are linked to greater conditionability
    • (Otto et al., 2008; Hermans et al., 2009)
  • Potential role for rumination in keeping

CS – UCS link alive

  • Encourage a present focus vs. future (past)
      • Leave patients expectancy free
positive beliefs about worries
Positive Beliefs About Worries


  • Is useful for finding solutions to problems
  • Is motivating – helps get things done
  • Is protective from negative emotions
  • Can prevent negative outcomes
  • Is a positive personality trait

(Francis & Dugas, 2004)

negative problem orientation
Negative Problem Orientation
  • Problems are threat to well-being
  • Doubt about problem-solving ability
  • Pessimism about problem solving outcome
  • Negative problem orientation is more specific to worry than depression in student samples, and is differentiated from neuroticism

(Robichaud & Dugas, 2005, BRAT)

intolerance of uncertainty
Intolerance of Uncertainty
  • Motivates unnecessary worry-based planning
    • “What if X happens, could I cope by…”
all current models tend to underscore avoidance of internal experiences
All current models tend to underscore avoidance of internal experiences
  • Cognitive avoidance
  • Emotional avoidance
  • Intolerance of uncertainty
  • Negative cognitive reactions to emotions
  • Combined With
    • Positive beliefs about worry
      • While being concerned about effects of worry
treatment elements borkovec
Treatment ElementsBorkovec
  • Awareness and self-monitoring
  • Relaxation
  • Cognitive therapy
  • Imagery rehearsal of coping strategies

(see Borkovec, 2006 for review)

treatment elements wells
Treatment ElementsWells
  • Case formulation
  • Socialization to treatment
  • Modifying negative beliefs about the uncontrollability of worry
  • Modifying beliefs about the danger of worry
  • Modifying positive beliefs about worry

(Wells, 1999)

treatment elements dugas et al
Treatment ElementsDugas et al.
  • Uncertainty recognition and behavioral exposure
  • Re-evaluation of the usefulness of worry
  • Problem-solving training
  • Imaginal exposure

(Dugas et al., 2003)

relaxation strategies
Relaxation Strategies
  • Progressive Relaxation (PR; e.g., Bernstein & Borkovec, 1973)
  • Applied Relaxation (AR;O¨ st, 1987).
    • AR does include exposure elements
mechanism of relaxation training ost 1992
Mechanism of Relaxation Training (Ost, 1992)
  • Reduces general tension and anxiety (and link stressor/panic)
  • Enhances awareness about how anxiety works, de-mystifying and diminishing its impact
  • Enhances self-efficacy : individuals feel equipped to cope with anxiety
relaxation training
Relaxation Training
  • Feel the difference between tension and relaxation
  • Tense 7 seconds, relax 15
  • Specific muscle groups to learn the procedure
  • Group them as skill increases
  • Use 10-second relaxation cue
the words of worry
The “Words” of Worry
  • Non-specific and hard to dispute
    • It will be horrible
    • It will be a disaster
  • Downward Arrow Techniques to clarify worries and put them in a form appropriate for cognitive-restructuring
cognitive restructuring
Cognitive Restructuring
  • Self monitoring
  • Logical analysis
  • Probability overestimations
  • Overestimations of the degree of catastrophe
    • Ability to cope
relapse prevention in depression metacognitive awareness
Relapse Prevention in Depression - Metacognitive Awareness
  • Classic CT and mindfulness-based CT both enhance metacognitive awareness
  • Level of metacognitive awareness is linked to relapse
  • Changing the relationship people have to their thoughts, rather than changing beliefs, may be important for preventing relapse

(Teasdale et al., 2002)

Mindfulness –
  • Curious attention to the present moment, in an open, nonjudgmental, and accepting manner
    • (Bishop et al., 2004; Germer, 2005; Kabat-Zinn, 1994)
why mindfulness
Why Mindfulness?
  • Hayes and Feldman, 2004
    • Mindfulness training may enhance emotional regulation by addressing the patterns of over-engagement (e.g., rumination) and under-engagement (avoidance) that characterizes the disorder.
    • Target is a healthy level of engagement that “allows clarity and functional use of emotional responses”
  • Roemer et al, 2009
    • Non-clinical symptoms and clinical GAD status linked to lower mindfulness
worry time
Worry Time
  • Save up the worry (cue specificity)
  • End of the day worry time
  • In office (non-fun) setting
  • 45 min – with writing
  • 10 min – relaxation skills
  • Go have fun
gad worry exposure
GAD: Worry Exposure
  • Metaphor: Like watching a scary movie over and over – decreased arousal and changed meaning of the worry
  • Apply exposure plus response prevention (including the use of tape loops)
  • The goal is elimination of the worry response via repeated exposure to core fears
  • This technique should also be coupled with the prescription to worry through one topic and not switch among “spheres of worry”
gad training in normal thinking
GAD: Training in Normal Thinking
  • Teach “normal thinking” as alternative behavior. What does one think about when not preoccupied with worry?
  • Mindfulness of thinking states that are different from worry (e.g. daydreaming, experiencing, planning, enjoying)
  • Sensory awareness training
  • “Staying in the moment”
  • Use of “worry times”
  • Limited effects of exposure on valence/preference
attention modificationtraining gad
Attention ModificationTraining - GAD
  • 29 treatment seeking patients
  • Random assignment (train away vs. no train threat words)
  • 8 sessions over 4 weeks
  • Goal:
    • Change attentional bias
    • Change GAD symptoms
  • Succeeded with both
    • Between group effect size of .80
    • Least efficacy on worry

(Amir et al., 2009, J Abn Psych)

attention modification training gad
Attention Modification Training - GAD
  • Randomized clinical trial GAD (N = 29)
  • Stimuli: threatening or neutral words
  • 50% of those in the active attention modification program were classified as responders (no longer meeting DSM diagnosis for GAD) vs. 13% in the control condition

(Amir et al., 2009)

new directions
New Directions
  • Attentional training
  • Mindfulness/emotional tolerance training
  • Interoceptive exposure
  • Integrative treatment
gad interpersonal roles
GAD Interpersonal Roles
  • Polarizing the relationship: the worry partner
  • Improving couple’s problem-solving
  • Nice convergence of strategies in the field
  • Need to convincingly beat relaxation training as a first step in care
  • Need to confirm resilience of treatment to depression (but emergent finding across anxiety disorders)
  • Room for improvement – to achieve high end-state functioning