Category: Cognitive Science / Cognitive Processes

Symposium

Increasing Resilience to Panic Sensations Through Cognitive Bias Modification in an Anxiety Sensitive Sample

Saturday, November 18
1:45 PM - 3:15 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom A, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Resilience | Cognitive Biases / Distortions | Anxiety
Presentation Type: Symposium

The current study targeted the development of resilience among people high in anxiety sensitivity, an established vulnerability marker for a range of anxiety disorders, especially panic disorder. Increasing resilience to panic-related stressors may have important implications because those who find it difficult to recover from panic symptoms are thought to be especially vulnerable to developing panic disorder. While research on cognitive bias modification (CBM) has shown it can be effective at reducing cognitive bias and emotional vulnerability in a variety of domains, including anxiety disorders (see Hallion & Ruscio, 2011), results have been mixed and focusing on resilience enhancement is a novel application of CBM.


Participants (N=50) high in anxiety sensitivity were randomly assigned to 4 sessions of either resilience-enhancing interpretation bias modification (CBM-I) or a control (Sham) condition. Following the intervention, participants engaged in a 7.5% steady state carbon dioxide (CO2) breathing challenge, a reliable elicitor of panic symptoms.     


In line with hypotheses, those in the CBM-I condition reported a reduction in interpretation bias at post-training (pp=.053). Additionally, those in the CBM-I condition reported less intense cognitive symptoms of panic during the CO2 challenge (p=.001), though not less intense physical symptoms or total sum of panic symptoms (both p’s>.05). Finally, model-predicted values suggested that those in the CBM-I condition experienced less anticipatory anxiety prior to the CO2 breathing period, and then less anxiety during the recovery period, compared to the Sham condition, but not differences in reactivity to breathing the CO2-enriched air (though this pattern should be interpreted with caution).  


While the findings are somewhat mixed, the results of the current study are promising for CBM-I as an intervention to increase resilience to panic attacks for those vulnerable to developing panic disorder. 

Jessica R. Beadel

University of Cincinnati

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