People who struggle with anxiety tend to feel more threatened and fearful than others. In clinical studies, threat and neutral stimuli are used to determine the attentional bias of participants with anxiety and it has been found that those who perceive the stimuli as more threatening are often the same individuals with the greatest symptoms. Specifically, people with a readiness to acquire an attentional bias (RAAB) are more likely to have elevated levels of anxiety when confronted with even a moderately stressful stimulus. Many widely used therapies that attempt to reduce anxiety focus on this precise issue. However, people often fail to respond to treatment and continue to suffer with persisting symptoms. In an effort to determine if RAAB could predict how an individual would respond to anxiety treatment, researchers from the University of Sydney, New South Wales, conducted a study on 34 individuals undergoing treatment for anxiety. “Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has consistently been shown to reduce anxiety symptoms in those suffering anxiety disorders,” said Patrick J.F. Clarke of the Mind Research Institute at the University, and lead author of the study. “Despite the apparent effectiveness of CBT, there is considerable individual difference in treatment response, with a significant proportion of individuals showing limited anxiety reduction in response to treatment. Identifying the facilitators and impediments to anxiety reduction in therapy has been the subject of considerable attention.”
Clarke and his colleagues examined the level of RAAB exhibited by the participants after 8 weeks of CBT. “Consistent with this requirement, the group treatment program resulted in significant reductions in all measures of anxiety vulnerability from the beginning to the end of therapy,” said Clarke. “The findings of the present study revealed that individual differences in RAAB elicited by brief exposure to an experimental contingency serves to predict the extent to which individuals subsequently reduce anxiety in response to a therapeutic intervention.”
Clarke, P. J. F., Chen, N. T. M., & Guastella, A. J. (2011, October 3). Prepared for the Best: Readiness To Modify Attentional Processing and Reduction in Anxiety Vulnerability in Response to Therapy. Emotion. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0025592
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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