Facing the fear of anxiety

PhD candidate Bonnie Clough

Combatting the negative impact of anxiety using cognitive behavioural therapy is the aim of a new research program run by Griffith University, in the face of this significant issue.

Just under one third of adults globally will experience some form of anxiety or depression in their lifetime, to the point of it becoming a disorder and interfering with their quality of life.

Called Facing the Fear, the new study offers participants nine weekly group therapy sessions and is based on a US approach called Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment for Emotional Disorder.

“Despite its long name, the therapy’s basic premise is very simple in that it assumes that most forms of anxiety and depression have the same underlying causes and therefore it makes sense to treat them together,” says Bonnie Clough, PhD candidate from the School of Applied Psychology and the Menzies Health Institute Queensland.

“Many people we see are suffering from a combination of overlapping disorders such as phobias, social anxiety or difficulties with panic and are aiming to minimise and better manage these in their lives.”

Recognising the problems

Targeting adults aged over 18 with these issues, Facing the Fear uses a staged therapy approach to teach participants how to recognise their anxiety and how it can develop, and to then use different methods to manage their anxiety.

The study is also examining how the use of tasks carried out between therapy sessions can assist with face-to-face sessions, says Ms Clough.

“The theory is that the more they engage, outside of the sessions, the better the results are in overcoming symptoms of anxiety. We have seen them able to independently use the strategies they have learnt on a daily basis.

“Overall, we have seen some excellent results from participants who are seeing some strong improvements in their everyday functioning to the extent that their emotional difficulties are not interfering so much on a day-to-day basis.”

Based at Griffith’s Mount Gravatt campus, 90 people have gone through the Face the Fear program already but Ms Clough says they are seeking more participants. For more information call 3735 3348 or email facingthefear@griffith.edu.au