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Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;(1):CD001848.

Psychological therapies for generalised anxiety disorder.

Author information

Institute of Psychiatry, Section of Evidence Based Mental Health, Health Services Research Department, PO Box 32, De Crespigny Park, London, UK, SE5 8AF.



Generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) is a highly prevalent condition, characterised by excessive worry or anxiety about everyday events and problems. The effectiveness and effectiveness of psychological therapies as a group has not yet been evaluated in the treatment of GAD.


To examine the efficacy and acceptability of psychological therapies, categorised as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and supportive therapy, compared with treatment as usual/waiting list (TAU/WL) and compared with one another, for patients with GAD.


We searched the Cochrane Depression, Anxiety & Neurosis Group (CCDAN) Controlled Trials Register and conducted supplementary searches of MEDLINE, PsycInfo, EMBASE, LILACS and in February 2006. We searched reference lists of retrieved articles, and contacted trial authors and experts in the field for information on ongoing/completed trials.


Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials conducted in non-inpatient settings, involving adults aged 18-75 years with a primary diagnosis of GAD, assigned to a psychological therapy condition compared with TAU/WL or another psychological therapy.


Data on patients, interventions and outcomes were extracted by two review authors independently, and the methodological quality of each study was assessed. The primary outcome was anxiety reduction, based on a dichotomous measure of clinical response, using relative risk (RR), and on a continuous measure of symptom reduction, using the standardised mean difference (SMD), with 95% confidence intervals.


Twenty five studies (1305 participants) were included in the review, of which 22 studies (1060 participants) contributed data to meta-analyses. Based on thirteen studies, psychological therapies, all using a CBT approach, were more effective than TAU/WL in achieving clinical response at post-treatment (RR 0.63, 95%CI 0.55 to 0.73), and also in reducing anxiety, worry and depression symptoms. No studies conducted longer-term assessments of CBT against TAU/WL. Six studies compared CBT against supportive therapy (non-directive therapy and attention-placebo conditions). No significant difference in clinical response was indicated between CBT and supportive therapy at post-treatment (RR 0.86, 95%CI 0.70 to 1.06), however significant heterogeneity was indicated, which was partly explained by the number of therapy sessions.


Psychological therapy based on CBT principles is effective in reducing anxiety symptoms for short-term treatment of GAD. The body of evidence comparing CBT with other psychological therapies is small and heterogeneous, which precludes drawing conclusions about which psychological therapy is more effective. Further studies examining non-CBT models are required to inform health care policy on the most appropriate forms of psychological therapy in treating GAD.

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