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Cogn Behav Ther. 2009;38(1):29-41. doi: 10.1080/16506070902980745.

Cognitive behavioural therapy and applied relaxation for generalized anxiety disorder: a time series analysis of change in worry and somatic anxiety.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.


The present study examined symptom change profiles in patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) receiving either cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or applied relaxation (AR). It was hypothesized that (a) changes in worry would uniquely predict changes in somatic anxiety for most participants receiving CBT and (b) changes in somatic anxiety would uniquely predict changes in worry for most participants in the AR condition. Twenty participants (CBT n = 10; AR n = 10) completed daily ratings of worry and somatic anxiety during therapy, and multivariate time series analysis was used to assess the causal impact of each variable on the other. The hypotheses were not supported because we found no evidence of a match between individual symptom change profiles and treatment condition. Rather, a bidirectional relationship between worry and somatic anxiety was observed in 80% of participants receiving CBT and 70% of participants receiving AR. When only treatment responders were considered, 83% of participants receiving CBT and 86% of those receiving AR had such a bidirectional effect. The findings are discussed in terms of models of psychopathology that posit dynamic interactions between symptom clusters and in terms of the value of examining treatment mechanisms at the individual level.

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