In a new study, researchers found that people with anxiety disorders can benefit from two types of therapy.
They also found the same patients showed major changes on a scientific personality test.
The treatment resulted in patients scoring lower on the neuroticism personality trait, and thereby perhaps having a lower risk of relapse.
The research was conducted by a team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
People with generalized anxiety disorder usually score high on neuroticism.
They are more likely than average to be moody and to experience such feelings as anxiety, worry, fear, anger, frustration, envy, jealousy, guilt, depressed mood, and loneliness.
At the same time, they score lower on the traits of extroversion and openness to new experiences.
In the study, the research team used both cognitive behavior therapy and metacognitive therapy to help patients.
Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) aims to help patients identify and change destructive and disruptive thought patterns and practice relaxation.
Metacognitive therapy is a new treatment method that rather than changing the content of worry cognition, attempts to change the patients’ metacognitions about worry and discontinue the worry process.
Both have positive effects on patients.
The personality changes found by the research group in this study were more than twice as great as those reported in previous research.
Both treatment methods produced greater changes in neuroticism than previously reported in studies of changes in neuroticism traits after treatment.
Metacognitive therapy had the greatest effect on both symptoms and personality.
The team says the more effective the treatment method, the greater the personality changes, so the most effective methods are likely to yield the biggest personality changes.
In particular, the patients sought out social situations more and became more warm, friendly, and interested in others. They were also more open to new experiences and activities.
The team found the treatment for generalized anxiety disorder not only alleviated the neurotic traits but also led to the patient’s personality, in general, becoming more normal and stable.
Patients became more extroverted after treatment. In particular, they sought out social situations more and became more warm, friendly and interested in others.
They were also more open to new experiences and activities.
These findings show that patients may not need to go through long-term psychotherapy to change their personalities.
One author of the study is Professor Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair.
The study is published in Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy.
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