Guided self-help for generalized anxiety disorder in older adults

Aging Ment Health. 2016 Oct;20(10):1070-83. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2015.1060945. Epub 2015 Jul 9.


Objective: The main objective of this study was to examine the efficacy of a guided self-help treatment based on cognitive behavioral principles (CBT-GSH) for generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) in older adults.

Methods: Three older adults aged from 66 to 70 and diagnosed with GAD were included in a single-case experimental multiple-baseline protocol. Data were collected using daily self-monitoring, standardized clinician ratings, and self-report questionnaires at pretest, posttest, and 6-month and 12-month follow-ups. Treatment consisted of awareness training, worry interventions, relaxation training, pleasant activities scheduling, and relapse prevention. Participants used a manual presenting weekly readings and at-home practice exercises. They also received weekly supportive phone calls from a therapist.

Results: At posttest, participants showed improvement on worries and GAD severity, on psychological process variables targeted by treatment (intolerance of uncertainty, negative problem orientation, cognitive avoidance, and perceived usefulness of worry), and on secondary variables associated with GAD (anxiety, depression, sleep difficulties, cognitive functioning, and disability). These results were generally maintained at 12 months after the end of treatment. Participants had favorable opinions toward the treatment.

Conclusion: The results of this study suggest that CBT-GSH is both feasible and effective for the treatment of GAD in older adults.

Keywords: cognitive behavioral therapy; generalized anxiety disorder; guided self-help; older adults; single-case design.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Relaxation Therapy / methods*
  • Self Care*
  • Self Report
  • Social Support