At-Home Program Decreases Anxiety Sensitivity

Individuals who struggle with anxiety often exhibit symptoms of anxiety sensitivity (AS). AS is a persistent fear of the negative symptoms of anxiety and can exacerbate the current state of their anxiety and lead to panic attacks and debilitation. Even individuals with mood problems experience worsening symptoms as a result of AS, and it has been shown to increase symptoms of posttraumatic stress as well. Mental health professionals realize that addressing AS is critical to achieving a positive outcome during treatment and have relied on existing anxiety sensitivity ameliorating training (ASAT) to combat the symptoms. ASAT uses interoceptive exposure (IE) as a component of the treatment. IE exposes anxious clients to conditions that will induce fear in an attempt to reduce their sensitivity to the feared conditions. Although some research has shown IE to be a positive tool in anxiety sensitivity reduction, no study has evaluated the effectiveness of ASAT and IE between sessions.

Meghan E. Keough of the Department of Psychology at Florida State University sought to examine this component of ASAT by assessing the anxiety sensitivity of 104 individuals with AS. After a 1-hour session of ASAT and homework sessions, the participants exhibited significant reductions in AS. Compared to controls, the participants who completed the ASAT and homework had much lower levels of AS at both 1-month and 6-month follow-ups. Additionally, the control group experienced elevated levels of AS at both follow-ups.

Keough and her colleagues believe that the results of this study clearly demonstrate the effectiveness of ASAT and IE on AS. Strikingly, just as the training aided in the reduction of symptoms long-term, the lack of ASAT and homework perpetuated the increase of AS long-term, demonstrating the negative consequences of not adequately addressing AS in people who suffer with anxiety. These findings also provide evidence that individuals who may continue to suffer with AS even though they adhere to in-office treatment for years at a time may benefit by adding this additional form of treatment to their existing protocol. ASAT and homework also may provide a viable alternative to traditional mental health care for people who have financial or geographical challenges. Keough added, “Although this type of intervention does not fully address these problems, such interventions have the potential to fill a need in a stepped care process that may more fully address the current inadequacies in the mental health system.”

Keough, M. E., Schmidt, N. B. (2012). Refinement of a brief anxiety sensitivity reduction intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0027961

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  • LeAnne

    April 13th, 2012 at 4:02 PM

    Giving these types of patients work to do at home is just like giving school children homework. It helps to reinforce the treatment that they are finding in the office by giving them practice if you will for things that they can do at home. It lest them be in the privacy of their home, where more than likely they will feel safe, and lets them do certain things on their own time frame which has to relieve some of the pressure and anxiety that they are naturally going to feel. Great program idea.

  • Seal

    April 13th, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    This is a wonderful idea, especially for those for whom leaving the house can be a challenge. Be it monetary constraints or transportation issues, or whatever, not everyone can venture off to an office appointment all of the time. But if they are given this as an alternative to some of that, when done correctly and implemented by a thoughtful therapist who knows her patient’s needs, this could be very effective to help them continue to get better and better. I know that it is not the whoe answer, but I think that it could be a critical piece that has been missing for many.

  • candace

    April 14th, 2012 at 5:27 AM

    I hope that the patients who are given this kind of work program to complete at home are really doing the work the way that they need to do to receive the most benefit.

    I know if they are like me any time that I was given an assignment to do at home I would procrastinate up until the very last minute and then scramble to get it done.

    That was never my very best work and I would assume that any at home assignment could be like that if not treated with the kind of adherence to the program and regimen that it needs to offer the best at home results.

  • Zach

    April 14th, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    you know that they have to feel more comfortable working on this from home, especially if a lot of their anxiety is created when they have to deal with strangers and strange situations.

  • Laura Gail

    April 15th, 2012 at 6:11 AM

    Jeesh, is this what self imporvement and therapy have devolved into? Do it yourself guides and exercises that you complete in the privacy and comfort of your own home? Internet websites spouting ways to improve your life from paid professionals, just put your credit card on file and you too can experience the newest and latest therapy craze?
    No thanks, that’s not for me

  • Keegan

    April 16th, 2012 at 4:56 AM

    For the patients who need more than the traditional office visit, this is a wonderful supplment to their treatment plan.

  • marinn

    April 17th, 2012 at 4:55 AM

    I am all for a good at home program for patients to try as long as they are supervised by a trained professional who makes notes on the patient’s progress and who is available to make modifications to the program as deemed necessary. I don’t think that there should be a program where the client is expected to go it alone with a syllabus of exercises for them to try. But if it is something that is fluid and easily modified to meet their changing needs and progress, then I do think that there are patients who could do well with this.

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