What should treatment for generalized anxiety disorder do?
Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder
People who are anxious often get a response from friends and family that they need “ just to relax”, or are told “ don’t think about things” or to “ stop worrying”. Seriously? If this worked for anxious people don’t you think we would have figured it out? Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder goes beyond this common advice that is offered by others to the real cause of anxiety. In fact, the advice offered by others is actually the opposite of what needs to occur. Thought suppression ( don’t think about things, stop worrying) and relaxation training ( just relax), are ways of avoiding your anxiety. Therapy that works teaches you not to avoid it, not to try to control it, and not to fight it.
Treatment for generalized anxiety disorder follows the same concepts as the treatment as any other anxiety disorder. Below I have listed the major areas we work on in therapy for this issue.
1. People who have anxiety misinterpret their environment, thoughts and body sensations. With a lot of work, you can see where you are doing this and how to modify it. For example, someone who has anxiety may feel they are going crazy or are out of control. This is a misinterpretation. You are not actually going crazy or out of control but you think and believe this to be true. A focus of treatment is illustrating that this is not true, and discussing how believing this is true is contributing to your anxiety. You can learn to challenge these misunderstandings.
2. People who have anxiety believe they have to get rid of it, and they can’t tolerate it. The belief that your anxiety is unbearable causes you to resist and fight the experience while you are having it, and to go to great lengths to predict it and avoid dealing with it in the future. Treatment helps you to learn to experience your anxiety in the moment. This helps you to learn that you have nothing to fear! This is the great paradox of anxiety. To be relieved of its effects you need to accept the experience. What do we all do? Fight it, run from it, avoid it. Therapy should not help you to do the things you are already doing that don’t work, but to point out how you can do different things that will work. Learn more about acceptance here.
3. People who have anxiety have a future focus and dread which robs them of the present moment. This prevents them from experiencing anything that is currently happening. See if this isn’t true for you. Think about what you are worrying about. Is it now or is it in the future or past? Learning to be present, to observe and describe your mind and body’s thoughts and sensations in the moment helps you to deal better with your anxiety. Learn more about mindfulness here.
4. People who have anxiety have difficulty living with the concept of uncertainty. Research shows that people who have anxiety believe they can’t tolerate uncertainty. They become distressed and suffer at that thought of it, and make desperate attempts through worrying to deal with it. Life is uncertain. What is certain? We could die tomorrow, we could lose our spouse to an affair or divorce, we could be fired, or experience a natural disaster.
This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to minimize the occurrence of negative events by working on what is in our control. For example, we still go to work and do the best we can, and try to be healthy, and try to be a good spouse. But beyond this, there is uncertainty that we can’t control.
Good treatment for generalized anxiety disorder will deal with these issues.
Generalized anxiety information
Treatment of generalized anxiety in children