Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is characterized by a pattern of persistent, obsessive worry, anticipatory anxiety, and stress about a number of key life areas, like finances, employment, the health of you and your loved ones, negative judgment and humiliation. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is effective, clinically-proven treatment for generalized anxiety. CBT works by 1) changing the beliefs that underlie worry, 2) minimizing your engagement in the obsessive process, and 3) committing to the hard work of developing true sources of confidence.
Healthy Worry: Worry is an anxious preoccupation with an anticipated negative event. Worry helps us adapt by directing attention to true problems that once identified can then be addressed. In this way worry is effective in managing real challenges of life.
Unhealthy Worry: For some people the adaptive process of worry breaks down. Their worries no longer motivate effective problem solving and instead they become stuck in thinking about everything that could go wrong. They are plagued with thoughts and images of disastrous outcomes that in reality may never come to be.
Cognitive restructuring is a core CBT skill that helps you step back from worry and nurture a balanced, “wise” mind that is both informed by emotions and grounded in reason. Cognitive restructuring “puts your thoughts on trial,” separating the facts from the fictional spin your mind has come to place on them. The goal is to develop a supportive inner voice, better manage strong emotions, and more effectively guide you toward your goals.
Rather than battling and bracing against unwanted realities – like an unchangeable past and uncertain future – acceptance strategies help conserve precious emotional resources, and redirect these resources toward practical, achievable goals. Mindfulness, the experiential practice of acceptance, helps build emotional muscle to better tolerate the inevitable challenging emotions that arise as you activate toward your goals.
The ultimate aim of CBT is to help you get out of your head, i.e., disengage from obsessive worry and rumination, and into the process of living a full, meaningful life. The process of working toward specific, achievable goals creates opportunities to practice and master CBT skills and to obtain valuable emotional rewards. In this way, through determination and hard work, one may truly create a life worth living, a life in which worries and regrets take a back seat to the value inherent in each, present moment.