Treatment for Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is associated with numerous physical symptoms of stress and tension. But, since anxiety is a combination of physical sensations, behaviors, emotions, and thoughts, it is important to target each of these components. Psycho-education is used to teach therapy participants about the physical sensations of anxiety so that the participant learns how to recognize and manage those symptoms.
Progressive muscle relaxation and imagery techniques are extremely useful techniques in managing and reducing these physical sensations. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches individuals how to recognize the difference between physical tension, and relaxation. Consequently, they learn how to consciously relax their muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation consists of the therapist systematically guiding a person to tense, and then relax, multiple major-muscle groups. Regular practice is the best way to master the technique. Therapists often provide therapy participants with a tape recording of the exercise for homework practice. Imagery techniques consist of guiding people to imagine themselves in a safe and relaxing situation, or to recall a pleasant memory, such as lying on a beach listening to the ocean. Therapy participants learn to use these techniques throughout the day to return to a state of relaxation and calm.
Cognitive therapy focuses on challenging the core belief that the world is a dangerous place and decreasing cognitive distortions such as catastrophic predictions. Furthermore, people with GAD are encouraged to test out their predictions regarding future catastrophes. Exposure and response prevention therapy can be applied during imaginal exercises. This consists of the therapist guiding the therapy participant to imagine a feared future catastrophe. Repeated exposure, via imagination, helps the therapy participant to become desensitized to worries about negative outcomes by imagining them occurring.