Do Cognitive Reappraisal and Diaphragmatic Breathing Augment Interoceptive Exposure for Anxiety Sensitivity?

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Abstract

Interoceptive exposure (IE) is an effective procedure for reducing anxiety sensitivity (AS) and the symptoms of panic disorder. However, considerable variance exists in how IE is delivered among clinicians, and the extent to which IE is enhanced by the concurrent use of cognitive reappraisal (CR) and diaphragmatic breathing (DB) is unclear. Participants (N = 58) with high AS were randomly assigned to one of four single-session interventions: (a) IE only, (b) IE + CR, (c) IE + CR + DB, or (d) expressive writing control. IE was superior to expressive writing in reducing AS and associated anxiety symptoms. The addition of CR and DB did not enhance the benefits of IE at either posttreatment or 1-week follow-up. These findings highlight the specific efficacy of IE in reducing AS and call into question the common practice of combining IE with cognitive and breathing strategies. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.

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