Effectiveness of exposure-based treatment for childhood anxiety disorders: An open clinical trial to test its relation with indices of emotional processing and inhibitory learning

Rachel de Jong*, Miriam J J Lommen, Peter J de Jong, Wiljo J P J van Hout, Adina C E Duin-van der Marel, Maaike H Nauta

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: The current study examined how effectiveness of exposure-based CBT was related to indices of emotional processing and inhibitory learning during exposure exercises.

METHODS: Adolescents with anxiety disorder(s) (N = 72; age 11-19; 85% girls) received a group-based, intensive two-week treatment of which effectiveness was indexed by the SCARED and by ratings of anxiety and approach towards individualized goal situations. To index emotional processing, subjective units of distress (SUDs) were used to indicate both initial and final fear level, and absolute, relative, and total dose of fear reduction. To index inhibitory learning, subjective threat expectancies (STEs) were used to indicate initial and final threat expectancy, and absolute, relative, and total dose of expectancy change.

RESULTS: From pre-treatment to follow-up, there was a large-sized reduction of anxiety symptoms, small-sized decrease of subjective anxiety and a large-sized increase in subjective approach towards individual treatment goals. Higher fear levels prior to exposure were related to a larger decrease of symptoms. Higher threat expectancies after exposure exercises were independently associated with less decrease of anxiety and increase of approach towards treatment goals. Total dose of experienced fear reduction and total dose of experienced expectancy change were (partly) independently related to more increase in approach towards individualized goal situations.

LIMITATIONS: As patients also received other treatment elements, the results cannot be interpreted unequivocally.

CONCLUSIONS: The pattern of findings seems to indicate that emotional processing (as indexed by fear reduction) and inhibitory learning (as indexed by expectancy change) are both relevant in exposure-based CBT.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101942
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry
Volume83
Early online date18-Jan-2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun-2024

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