Anxiety disorders constitute one of the most prevalent forms of psychopathology, resulting in significant impairment in daily functioning in those suffering from anxiety and a profound economic burden for society. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one form of efficacious treatment for the anxiety disorders. Despite the effectiveness of these treatments, the prevalence of anxiety disorders remains high, suggesting a need for increased efforts aimed at preventing these disorders. Several risk factors (e.g., anxiety sensitivity, subclinical anxiety) associated with the development of anxiety disorders have been identified in recent years. However, the development of preventive interventions targeting these risk factors is in the nascent stage. To date, preventive interventions have tended to target specific anxiety disorder symptoms (e.g., panic attacks). Although these interventions are effective at reducing risk for the targeted disorder (e.g., panic disorder), the focus of the intervention is narrow, thereby limiting the dissemination of these interventions. One approach that may broaden the scope of our prevention efforts is the development of a transdiagnostic intervention. Transdiagnostic treatments aim to provide a parsimonious approach to treatment by creating protocols designed to treat multiple disorders that are deemed similar in nature. Currently, these protocols have only been used in those with diagnosed conditions (e.g., anxiety disorders);however, it makes sense that a transdiagnostic approach may also be helpful for those at-risk for developing anxiety disorders. This is especially true for individuals experiencing subclinical anxiety symptoms, as these individuals are likely displaying a variety of anxiety symptoms (i.e., social anxiety, worry) that can be targeted in a transdiagnostic approach. Indeed, the development of a transdiagnostic intervention for this group may be a key next step in providing a cost-effective preventative approach of these disorders. The primary goal of the proposed study is to adapt an existing transdiagnostic treatment, False Safety Behavior Elimination Treatment (F-SET;Schmidt et al., 2012), to use as a preventative intervention for those with subclinical anxiety. The proposed study is a novel approach building on current prevention work by incorporating what we know about the use of CBT and the benefits of transdiagnostic treatment approaches. The proposed intervention will be used across a range of anxiety symptom groups (e.g., subclinical panic, social anxiety, worry) and will provide an initial test of the efficacy of a transdiagnostic intervention for those at risk for developing problems with anxiety. The proposed study will adapt the F-SET protocol to a shortened, easy to use, preventive intervention. Specifically, we are interested in whether F-SET for subclinical anxiety would be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms at post- intervention and at a one-month follow-up. We are also interested in examining the potential mechanisms (e.g., mediating role of safety aid utilization) involved in the reduction of anxiety symptoms.
This project has the potential to reduce the cost and economic burden of anxiety disorders through the development of a transdiagnostic preventative intervention for subclinical anxiety. The proposed intervention will directly impact public health issues by creating a novel preventative intervention that focuses on treating multiple anxiety symptom constellations (i.e., social anxiety, worry, panic) associated with increased risk for developing an anxiety disorder. Further, the proposed transdiagnostic intervention is parsimonious, easy-to- use, and cost-effective, thereby increasing the ability to disseminate this preventative intervention to the community.