Generalized Social Phobia (GSP) is characterized by severe social anxiety that leads to functional impairment (Schneider, et al., 1992). The prevalence of GSP is 13.3% (lifetime, Kessler, et al., 1994), ranking third among all psychiatric disorders. Despite its high prevalence, over 30% of individuals with social anxiety who need treatment do not receive treatment for a variety of reasons (e.g., afraid of what others might think, Olfson, et al., 2000). Additionally, 40% of individuals who present for treatment do not respond (39% Heimberg, et al., 1998; 42%, Liebowitz et al., 2005). Thus, there is a clear need to develop highly effective and efficient treatment procedures for social phobia. This three-year proposal aims to test a computerized treatment for social anxiety in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Specifically, research suggests that individuals with social phobia direct their attention toward socially-relevant negative information. Therefore, the treatment will focus on changing this attention bias and thereby alleviate symptoms of social anxiety. We present the results of a pilot study (n=26) in treatment seeking socially phobic individuals demonstrating the effectiveness of the treatment. A larger study would allow us to test the treatment and perhaps modify its component to increase its efficacy. The preliminary results of the pilot are encouraging. In brief, our intervention was effective in: a) changing biased attention in socially anxious individuals, b) generalizing this change in disengagement of attention from threat to other measures of attention disengagement, c) reduce symptoms of social anxiety as assessed by an independent rater, d) maintain a high rate of compliance (0% drop out in the pilot study), and e) maintain its effects in follow-up assessment up to one year. This efficient and efficacious techniques for changing attention bias in social phobia can provide a cost-effective and easy to administer treatment that is grounded in basic cognitive science and may help reduce suffering in individuals with GSP. We will test two hypotheses in this proposal. 1) Individuals with GSP completing the Attention Disengagement Training (ADT) will show a larger reduction in their symptoms compared to the placebo group on an interviewer measure of social anxiety (Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, LSAS). 2) Individuals with GSP completing ADT will show a larger reduction in their self-report of social anxiety symptoms compared to the placebo group. ? ? ?

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Planning Grant (R34)
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Interventions Research Review Committee (ITV)
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Kozak, Michael J
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San Diego State University
Schools of Arts and Sciences
San Diego
United States
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Kuckertz, Jennie M; Strege, Marlene V; Amir, Nader (2017) Intolerance for approach of ambiguity in social anxiety disorder. Cogn Emot 31:747-754
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Kuckertz, Jennie M; Amir, Nader (2015) Attention bias modification for anxiety and phobias: current status and future directions. Curr Psychiatry Rep 17:9
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Boutelle, Kerri N; Kuckertz, Jennie M; Carlson, Jordan et al. (2014) A pilot study evaluating a one-session attention modification training to decrease overeating in obese children. Appetite 76:180-5
Kuckertz, Jennie M; Amir, Nader; Boffa, Joseph W et al. (2014) The effectiveness of an attention bias modification program as an adjunctive treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Behav Res Ther 63:25-35
Amir, Nader; Kuckertz, Jennie M; Najmi, Sadia (2013) The effect of modifying automatic action tendencies on overt avoidance behaviors. Emotion 13:478-84
Amir, Nader; Prouvost, Caroline; Kuckertz, Jennie M (2012) Lack of a benign interpretation bias in social anxiety disorder. Cogn Behav Ther 41:119-29
Amir, Nader; Taylor, Charles T (2012) Combining computerized home-based treatments for generalized anxiety disorder: an attention modification program and cognitive behavioral therapy. Behav Ther 43:546-59
Amir, Nader; Taylor, Charles T (2012) Interpretation training in individuals with generalized social anxiety disorder: a randomized controlled trial. J Consult Clin Psychol 80:497-511

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