CBT Is Most Effective in Treating Anxiety Disorders, New Research Reveals

By Sharon Moore on June 29, 2012

Anxiety disorder is a term that covers a wide range of mental illnesses characterised by extreme fear and anxiety. Getting severely distressed and anxious when speaking in public or abnormal panicking when confronted with stressful situations is usually observed on people with anxiety issues. There are many forms of treatment available for these individuals. But among these treatments, the cognitive behavioural therapy or CBT, when used with trans-diagnostic approach is found to be the most effective, a new study revealed.

CBT with trans-diagnostic approach was even more effective than the CBT combined with other treatments such as relaxation training, according to Peter Norton, the study author, associate professor of clinical psychology and director of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic at the University of Houston (UH). His conclusion was that therapists treating people with said mental disorders may use one set of principles in addressing anxiety disorders, also called the trans-diagnostic approach. His findings were based on four separate clinical studies that took a decade to explore.

According to Norton, anxiety disorder happens when a person feels fear and anxiety so overwhelming that it starts to affect their daily life. Anxiety disorder includes panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and generalised anxiety disorder. Although there are specific types of treatments used for each disorder, they only differ in very specific ways, said Norton.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been an important breakthrough in the understanding of mental health. However, people have been dissatisfied with its fine level of differentiation, he added.

Norton hoped to organise a group for people with anxiety disorders in general and create a treatment program where the insignificant distinctions between panic disorder and social phobia, or between obsessive compulsive and other anxiety problems. He was looking for a treatment that will focus on alleviating the root cause of the anxiety disorder, and not merely the symptoms.

CBT is as a type of treatment with a specific goal and time frame, and helps people understand the feelings and thoughts that influence their emotions. Prof Norton considers this treatment as the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders. But unlike the traditional CBT, he proposes the use of trans-diagnostic method, particularly in treating co morbid problems – diseases that can either stand on its own or co-exist with other disease, such as depression.

The trans-diagnostic approach, according to Prof Norton, is more effective in treating the person as a whole rather than treating the first diagnosis then the next one, and so on. In his study, he found that trans-diagnostic treatments are more effective in addressing co morbid diagnoses. More than 2/3 of those diagnosed with such diseases successfully recovered from trans-diagnostic treatments as compared to those who were treated with specified treatments.

Prof Norton notes that their findings will warrant further development and interventions in how therapists, clinical practitioners, and social workers treat those who are diagnosed with anxiety disorders and obtain positive results.

 

Source of this article:

Research at UH Finds Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Effective in Combatting Anxiety Disorders, University of Houston

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