Eifert & Heffner, 2003

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APA Citation: 

Eifert, G. H., & Heffner, M. (2003). The effects of acceptance versus control contexts on avoidance of panic-related symptoms. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 34, 293-312.

Publication Topic: 
ACT: Empirical
Publication Type: 
ACT, panic, anxiety

The present study compared the effects of creating an acceptance versus a control treatment context on the avoidance of aversive interoceptive stimulation. Sixty high anxiety sensitive females were exposed to two 10-min periods of 10% carbon dioxide enriched air, an anxiogenic stimulus. Before each inhalation period, participants underwent a training procedure aimed at encouraging them either to mindfully observe (acceptance context) or to control symptoms via diaphragmatic breathing (control context). A third group was given no particular training or instructions. We hypothesized that an acceptance rather than control context would be more useful in the reduction of anxious avoidance. Compared to control context and no-instruction participants, acceptance context participants were less avoidant behaviorally and reported less intense fear and cognitive symptoms and fewer catastrophic thoughts during the CO2 inhalations. We discuss the implications of our findings for an acceptance-focused vs. control-focused context when conducting clinical interventions for panic and other anxiety disorders.

Randomized study comparing control versus acceptance during a CO2 challenge with anxious subjects. Acceptance oriented exercise (the finger trap) reduced avoidance, anxiety symptoms, and anxious cognitions as compared to breathing training.
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