Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst

Zeitschrift für Depression und Angst
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ISSN: 2167-1044


Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Depression: A Learning Theory Connection

Judith A Dygdon and Kimberly A Dienes

This paper offers a new learning theory-based conceptualization of worry in Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). The authors suggest that the processes that produce GAD symptoms may vary across GAD sufferers and that treatment effectiveness may be enhanced if the process that likely produced symptoms in a given individual is understood. Specifically, they suggest that a “worry as adjunctive behavior” hypothesis be added to the “worry as anxiety” and “worry as avoidance behavior” hypotheses currently considered. This new hypothesis suggests that for some worriers, worry may function as an adjunctive behavior; that is, a way of accessing quick satisfaction when daily living produces too little response contingent reinforcement. The authors explain that life events that give rise to adjunctive behavior are the same as those that contribute to depression and that this might help explain the high comorbidity between GAD and depression. In cases in which worry appears to serve an adjunctive function, treating GAD symptoms as depression would be treated (e.g., with behavioral activation) may be the most successful course of action.