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Sense of hope linked to better recovery from anxiety disorders

Researchers say the feeling helps people better cope with their condition

Photo (c) LenblR - Getty Images
Staying mentally healthy can look different for every consumer, but a new study found one component that could be beneficial for consumers struggling with anxiety: hope. 

According to researchers from the University of Houston, therapists that incorporate and promote hope into their cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) treatment plans for those dealing with anxiety disorders are more likely to see better results from their patients throughout the recovery process. 

“In reviewing recovery during CBT among the diverse clinical presentations, hope was a common element and a strong predictor of recovery,” said researcher Matthew Gallagher. 

Having high hopes

Gallagher and his team evaluated over 220 adults receiving CBT for an anxiety disorder and analyzed how hope played a role in their recovery. 

While “hope” itself may seem like a rather broad term, the researchers explained that it encompasses how successful and motivated patients feel to pursue possible healing and coping mechanisms -- and the likelihood that they follow through with such skills. 

The researchers monitored hope over time in order to better understand how remaining positive during treatment affected the recovery process. They learned that the trait was integral in how patients changed over time. 

The study revealed that hope continually increased over the course of consistent CBT. After analyzing questionnaires from both patients and therapists regarding predictions for hope, both parties were optimistic about the future. 

These findings hold promise for those struggling with anxiety disorders and offer an uplifting approach for mental health professionals to incorporate into their treatment plans. 

“Our results can lead to a better understanding of how people are recovering and it’s something that therapists can monitor,” Gallagher said. “If a therapist is working with a client who isn’t making progress, or is stuck in some way, hope might be an important mechanism to guide the patient forward toward recovery.” 

Being easier on ourselves

As positive a trait as hope can be for anxiety, a recent study found that anxiety issues can be aggravated when consumers are too hard on themselves. 

Researchers found that those who place high levels of responsibility on themselves are more likely to develop anxiety or OCD, as this feeling often lends itself to high levels of self-blame and makes it more likely for consumers to overthink things. 

“[A] very quick or easy way is to realize that responsibility is working behind your worry,” said researcher Yoshinori Sugiura. “I ask [patients], ‘why are you worried so much?’ so they will answer ‘I can’t help but worry,” but they will not spontaneously think ‘because I felt responsibility…’ just realizing it will make some space between responsibility thinking and your behavior.”

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