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Treatment Options for Generalized Anxiety Disorder without Medication

written by: Jacqueline Chinappi • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/18/2010

Help for Generalized Anxiety Disorder can come in another form besides treating with medication. There have been two types of therapeutic interventions which have shown to be effective when treating patients with GAD. These two forms of therapy are Analytic and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

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    Generalized Anxiety Disorder is a bit more difficult to treat as you are not focusing on specific anxieties or phobias. A person with this disorder is anxious about practically everything. Help for Generalized Anxiety Disorder without medication comes in the form of therapy. Two therapeutic interventions in particular which have shown drastic improvement to a person with Generalized Anxiety Disorder are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Analytic Therapy (Durham, Murphy, Allan, Richard, Treliving, &Fenton, 1994).

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    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

    Cognitive Behavioral Therapy better known as CBT integrates four components. These four parts which have been mostly used for the treatment of GAD include self-monitoring, relaxation training, cognitive therapy, and rehearsal of healthier responses to situations (Borkovec, Newman, & Castonguay, 2004).

    • Self-monitoring: Mental health professionals teach their patients to become more self-aware of their anxious behaviors. Patients also have to tune into any environmental factors which may be causing these anxious behaviors. The quicker they were able to recognize the causes and actions, the more successful treatment will be.
    • Relaxation Training: Mental health professional teach their patients methods of relaxation. These can be breathing techniques or meditation techniques. The patients are told to practice them every day so that when they feel anxious feelings or a panic attack coming on, they will know how to calm themselves down.
    • Cognitive Therapy: Cognitive therapy focuses on maladaptive thought patterns. The patient diagnosed with GAD has constant thoughts which make them feel worried and anxious. Mental health professionals evaluate the patient’s thought patterns and help them become more aware of the unrealistic worries and thoughts. They try to teach the patients how to be more flexible and think more realistically. One method used with Cognitive Therapy is a journal or diary. The patient writes down when they have anxious feelings or when they are worrying. They write down the reason why, what was happening at the time, how they felt, etc. The patient reviews the diary during the therapy sessions to become more aware of the unrealistic worries he or she had the previous week.
    • Rehearsal: Patients are taught healthier ways to respond to their thoughts and worries. The patients then rehearse these coping responses.

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    Analytic Therapy

    Analytic therapy is mainly used to help figure out the causes of disorders. Mental health professionals can practice psychoanalytic therapy or Cognitive Analytic therapy.

    • Psychoanalytic Therapy: This type of therapy is long term and was popularized by neurologist and founder of the psychoanalysis movement Sigmund Freud. This type of therapy is also known as talk therapy, as the client does most of the talking and the therapist sits and listens. The therapist will evaluate what the patient is saying and see if there are any patterns to the anxious feelings. Often psychoanalytic therapists look into childhood experiences and unconscious thoughts for evaluation of the patient’s troubles.
    • Cognitive Analytic Therapy: This kind of therapy is briefer than psychoanalytic therapy and was created by UK psychotherapist Tony Ryle. This kind of therapy integrates cognitive, behavioral, and psychoanalytic therapies to focus on thoughts, behavior, and childhood experiences. The mental health professional and patient evaluate past problems to work on future solutions.

    So to summarize, help for Generalized Anxiety Disorder without medication comes in two principle forms of therapy - Analytic and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Both have both shown success when treating patients with GAD. Although CBT is more effective than Analytic when treating patients with GAD (Durham, et al, 1994).

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    References:

    Borkovec, T.D., Newman, M.G., & Castonguay, L.G. (2004). Cognitive-Behavioral therapy for generalized anxiety disorder with integrations from interpersonal and experiential therapies. Focus, 2:392-401.

    Durham, R.C., Murphy, T., Richard, A.K., Treliving, L.R., & Fenton, G.W. (1994). Cognitive therapy, analytic psychotherapy and anxiety management training for generalized anxiety disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry 165: 315-323