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Manipulation of safety behaviours in panic disorder

Safety behaviours are the acts that people carry out which are designed to prevent a feared catastrophe or outcome. The client may also see them as things that help them cope in a situation. Salkovskis et al. conducted a survey of the types of safety behaviours people employed. Examples of safety behaviours in panic disorder include carrying a mobile phone to enable help to be summoned quickly, carrying medication in case of a sudden panic, sitting near a door to enable a quick escape. Where safety behaviours are observed, the role of the clinician is to give up the safety behaviour to find out if the feared outcome does, in fact, occur. This may be introduced through verbal discussion (for example, ‘You seem to be saying that carrying a mobile phone actually prevents you from panicking’) before going to test out the client’s hypothesis in a behavioural experiment.

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