Cognitive Behavior Therapy for Women With Generalized Anxiety Disorder in the Perinatal Period: Impact on Problematic Behaviors
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Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most frequently diagnosed anxiety disorder among women in the perinatal period (pregnancy to one year postpartum). Recent studies have examined the relationship between problematic behaviors and GAD symptoms. Studies in nonperinatal samples indicate that adults with GAD engage in avoidance and safety behaviors and these behaviors are associated with greater symptom severity. Little research has examined the use of problematic behaviors among pregnant or postpartum women. However, preliminary research suggests that these behaviors may have a negative impact on both anxious women and their children. Our aim was to examine the extent to which women with GAD in pregnancy or the postpartum engage in problematic behaviors and whether cognitive behavioral therapy is effective in reducing these behaviors. Fifty-eight women with GAD in pregnancy or postpartum were recruited from a larger clinical trial (Clinicaltrials.gov ID NCT02850523) evaluating the effectiveness of group-based cognitive behavioral therapy (CBGT) for perinatal anxiety disorders. The results indicated that women with perinatal GAD reported high levels of avoidance and safety behaviors and greater engagement in these behaviors was associated with higher levels of worry and related symptoms. CBGT was effective in reducing GAD symptoms and problematic behaviors and a bidirectional relationship was found between changes in worry and problematic behaviors during treatment. Limitations and future directions are discussed.
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