Examining the effects of safety behaviours on fear reduction during exposure
thesisposted on 23.05.2021, 18:34 by Heather Hood
The use of safety behaviours has been considered one of the primary maintaining mechanisms of anxiety disorders; however, evidence suggests that they are not always detrimental to treatment success. This study examined the effects of safety behaviours on behavioural, cognitive, and subjective indicators of fear during exposure for fear of spiders. A two-stage design examined fear reduction and approach distance during an exposure task for participants (N = 43) assigned to either a safety behaviour use (SBU) or no safety behaviour use (NSB) condition. No differences were observed between the groups in subjective or cognitive measures at prettest, posttest, and one-week follow-up; however, unlike the NSB group, the SBU group did not maintain their gains in approach distance at follow-up, though this was no longer true after self-efficacy was covaried. These results call for a reconsideration of the practice of completely eliminating safety behaviours during exposure-based treatments for specific fears.