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Can’t stop worrying? Examining the mechanisms of generalized anxiety disorder

Faculty Advisor




generalized anxiety disorder, beliefs about worry, intolerance of uncertainty

Abstract (summary)

Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience excessive and chronic worry over various daily events. If left untreated, GAD tends to be impairing and chronic. Existing research has shown negative beliefs about worry (NBW), positive beliefs about worry (PBW), intolerance of uncertainty (IU), and fear of emotions to be associated with GAD. However, the existing research is primarily cross-sectional. The present longitudinal study examined whether changes in NBW, PBW, IU, and fear of emotions predict changes in pathological worry and GAD symptoms over time. Undergraduate psychology students (N = 372), pre-screened for high levels of worry, completed a series of online self-report measures assessing worry, GAD symptoms, NBW, PBW, IU, and fear of emotions. Participants completed the questionnaires again 4 months later. Changes in NBW, IU, and fears of emotions predicted changes in worry severity. Additionally, changes in NBW and IU were the only mechanisms to predict changes in GAD symptoms. Further, NBW was the strongest predictor of changes in both worry and GAD. These findings have implications for the understanding and treatment of GAD. Primarily targeting NBW, while incorporating IU and fear of emotions into therapy, may enhance the treatment of GAD.

Publication Information



Presented June 23 - June 25 at the Canadian Psychological Association’s 84th Annual National Convention held at the Sheraton Centre in Toronto, Ontario.

Item Type

Student Presentation



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