Occasional anxiety is normal. We all worry about issues such as health, family, and money. But people with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, feel worried and nervous all the time—about these and other everyday concerns, even when there is little or no reason to worry. People with GAD struggle to control anxiety and stay focused.
The good news is that GAD is treatable. It’s commonly treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy), medication, or both. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type of psychotherapy that has been particularly successful in treating generalized anxiety. It teaches different ways of thinking, behaving, and responding to situations that cause anxiety.
CBT is an umbrella term which includes many therapeutic approaches, including acceptance-based behavioral therapy (ABBT) and mindfulness.
Acceptance-based behavioral therapy
When people experience GAD, many judge and criticize themselves. They struggle with negative thoughts about their seeming inability to overcome their anxiety. They may think they are stuck with a permanent “weakness.”
ABBT helps individuals focus on improving the ways they respond to negative thoughts, feelings, and memories. The goal is to alleviate difficult emotional reactions by training the mind and body to simply accept them: to recognize them as normal and to realize that these feelings are not a permanent state—they will naturally vary and evolve over time.
ABBT further encourages thinking about your feelings and emotions with curiosity and kindness, rather than with fear and criticism. If we stop trying to control certain feelings and accept them, we minimize the stress and anxiety that struggling against them can cause.