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Psych Congress  

Mindfulness and Perceived Emotional Control in Social Phobia

Max Sutton-Smolin, BA; Michael Treanor, PhD; Bita Mesri, BA; Michelle Craske, PhD

In many anxiety disorders, individuals avoid phobic situations to attempt to control internal experiences that represent threat cues (Hayes et al., 1999). In generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), attempted control of emotional experiences exacerbates distress associated with those experiences (Roemer et al., 2005). Craske and Hazlett-Stevens (2002) proposed a mechanism for acceptance-based GAD treatment success: it increases perceived control over emotional reactions by 1) requiring an effortful strategy and 2) lessening internal distress through the giving up of attempts to control it. Acceptance may thereby lead to perceived control. Dalrymple and Herbert (2007) found preliminary evidence of acceptance-based treatment success for Social Phobia (SP), and highlighted a need for research examining the mechanisms of change. Our study examined perceived control and mindfulness in 94 individuals—diagnosed with SP using the Anxiety Disorders Interview Schedule for DSM-IV (Brown et al., 1994)—who participated in a 12-week treatment study in which they were randomized to receive Acceptance and Commitment Therapy or Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Before treatment, participants completed questionnaires including the Anxiety Control Questionnaire (ACQ; Rapee et al., 1996) and the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ; Baer et al., 2006). A bivariate correlation analysis revealed correlations between perceived emotional control (ACQ) and the FFMQ’s awareness factor (r = .25, p < .05), non-judgment factor (r = .4, p < .01), and nonreactivity factor (r = .44, p < .01). The more mindful individuals were, the greater their perceived control over emotional reactions. Future research might investigate whether assessing this relationship could guide therapeutic approach by indicating the potential effectiveness of acceptance-based treatment for issues of control in SP.

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