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Exposure-based treatments of generalized anxiety disorder

Exposure-based treatments of generalized anxiety disorder

Purpose of exposure

The purpose of exposure-based treatments is to produce a reduction or removal of the anxiety response in the presence of the formerly anxiety evoking stimulus, situation or thought. As such, the goal of therapy is to produce habituation of the anxiety response. Habituation is a general term used in biological and behavioural sciences that is defined as: ‘a decrement in response as a result of repeated stimulation under normal circumstances, excluding response decrements due to injury, drugs, or other abnormal conditions’.

Another term commonly used in the behavioural literature is ‘extinction’ that is used to describe the process of reduction or decline in a previously learned response. Exposure-based treatments were derived from behavioural learning theories that attempted to account for the acquisition and maintenance of anxiety responses. Initially, the well-known theory of classical conditioning  was thought to account for the acquisition of anxiety and fear. More recently Davey  has reformulated the classical conditioning model to take into account the process of ‘re-evaluation of the UCS’, where UCS stands for ‘unconditioned stimulus’. In practice, the terms habituation and extinction tend to be used synonymously. Some attention has been given to the processes through which exposure works. One such formulation is that of ‘emotional processing’ in which it is hypothesized that exposure-based treatments have their effect through the modification of an internal fear structure, in which cognitive, affective and behavioural information about the feared stimulus is contained.

English: The Anxiety Wrap is a patented produc...

English: The Anxiety Wrap is a patented product that calms dogs using the gentle methods of Maintained Pressure and Acupressure. It ends thunderstorm fear, separation anxiety, noise phobias and more. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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