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New research finds that the most effective treatment for a wide range of disorders, including phobias and obsessive-compulsive disorder, is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) in conjunction with a transdiagnostic approach.

One size therapeutic approach fits all

Peter Norton, associate professor in clinical psychology and director of the Anxiety Disorder Clinic at the University of Houston, concluded that therapists treating people with anxiety disorders may effectively use a treatment that applies one set of principles across all types of disorders (transdiagnostic) in a single patient.

Norton identified anxiety disorders as those conditions where the fear or anxiety are so overwhelming that it is impossible to function normally. These may include panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, social anxiety disorder, specific phobias as well as generalized anxiety disorder in any combination. There are many approaches to each illness, but Norton believes that the ultimately a single approach is the best strategy.

Multiple approaches hasn’t worked out

“Panic disorders are considered something different from social phobia, which is considered something different from PTSD. The hope was that by getting refined in the diagnosis we could target interventions for each of these diagnoses, but in reality that just hasn’t played out,” explained Norton.

Treating the underlying cause helps all symptoms

Norton discovered that CBT helps patients understand the underlying causes of all of their conditions. Through his own research in group therapy, he found that a single approach worked well on all the disorders. “What I learned from my past research is that if you treat your principal diagnosis, such as social phobia and you hate public speaking, you are going to show improvement on some of your secondary diagnosis. Your mood is going to get a little better, your fear of heights might dissipate. . .what we find is when we approach things with a transdiagnostic approach, we see a much bigger impact on comorbid diagnoses.”

Source: ScienceDaily, University of Houston

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