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Guided Imagery Reduces Pathological Worry

23 Feb

Researchers from King’s College, London and Curtin University, Perth, compared two approaches to reducing worry in people with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). In one group, volunteers with GAD practiced replacing the usual form of worry with images of possible positive outcomes; in the other group, the same positive outcomes were represented verbally. A control group generated positive images not related to worries.

Participants received training in their designated method and then practiced it for one week, after which they were reassessed. Four weeks later, they completed follow-up questionnaires.

Interestingly, every one of the three groups benefited from training, with decreases in anxiety and worry, and no significant differences between groups.  

The investigators conclude that replacement of worry with different forms of positive ideation, even when unrelated to the content of worry itself, seems to have similar beneficial effects. This suggests that any form of positive ideation can be used to effectively counter worry.

Citation: Eagleson C, Hayes S, Mathews A, Perman G, Hirsch CR. The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy. 2016 Mar;78:13-8. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017. Epub 2016 Jan 8.

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Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award