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A Contemporary Learning Theory Perspective on the Etiology of Anxiety Disorders: Its Not What You Thought It Was

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A Contemporary Learning Theory Perspective on the Etiology of Anxiety Disorders: Its Not What You Thought It Was. Mineka & Zinbarg 2006. Why Care?. Lifetime prevalence in the U.S. of approximately 29\%.

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A Contemporary Learning Theory Perspective on the Etiology of Anxiety Disorders: Its Not What You Thought It Was

Mineka & Zinbarg


why care
Why Care?
  • Lifetime prevalence in the U.S. of approximately 29%.
  • Classical learning theory does not account for why some people develop anxiety disorders while others do not.
specific phobia
Specific Phobia
  • Intense and irrational fears of certain objects or situations they actively avoid.
  • Watson & Rayner (1920)
    • Little Albert
other factors with specific phobias
Other Factors with Specific Phobias
  • Vicarious Conditioning
  • Individual Differences
    • Personality Variables (High Trait Anxiety, Behaviorally Inhibited)
    • Genetically based vulnerabilities
    • Latent Inhibition: Prior exposure to the CS before paired with the US ↓ later conditioning to CS paired w/ US.
    • Perceived Control of the Situation
    • Postevent inflation (another experience, more information, mental rehearsal of CS-US relationship)
  • Evolutionary selection of Phobias – more prepared
    • Fear Relevant vs. Fear Irrelevant Stimuli
social phobia
Social Phobia
  • Excessive fear of situations in which they might be evaluated or judged.
  • Direct traumatic conditioning – 92% report history of severe teasing in childhood; 50% in panic disorder; 35% in OCD
  • 56% of those with social phobia recalled direct traumatic conditioning experiences
factors with social phobias
Factors with Social Phobias
  • Vicarious learning (13%)
  • Modeling – parents fears
  • Cultural Norms (Taijin Kyofusho)
  • Preparedness (Social Dominance)
  • Behavioral Inhibition
  • Controllability
  • Notice any patterns?
panic disorder with and without agoraphobia
Panic Disorder With and Without Agoraphobia
  • Recurrent unexpected panic attacks without explicit knowledge of cues or triggers; experience worry anxiety or behavioral change related to having another attack.*
  • Some develop avoidance of situations in which they feel escape might be difficult or embarrassing if they had a panic attack.
  • Risk Factors:
    • Gender
    • Employment
panic vs anxiety
Panic vs. Anxiety
  • Panic: strong autonomic arousal, extreme fear, and fight or flight actions
  • Anxiety: apprehension, worry and tension
  • Exteroceptive Conditioning
    • CSs interact with external sensory receptors
      • Central to development of agoraphobia
  • Interoceptive Conditioning
    • CSs are bodies own internal sensations
      • Heart palpitations and dizziness
  • Panic Attacks can occur due to the presence of exteroceptive CSs or interoceptive CSs
  • May cause generalization of agoraphobia due to interoceptive CSs generalizations (caffeine, scary movies, exercise, etc.)
factors in panic disorder
Factors in Panic Disorder
  • Anxiety- may be a precursor to panic attacks
    • Can be additive (general level of anxiety and CS)
  • Genetic & Personality factors
  • Prior learning
    • Perceptions of lack of control and helplessness
    • Engaging in sick role behavior, observing physical suffering as children
  • Reexperiencing the trauma, passively avoiding remingers, numbing of affect, heightened general arousal.
  • Trauma Phase
    • Controllability
    • Mental defeat
  • Pretrauma Phase
    • Prior trauma (especially interpersonal trauma)
    • History of control/readiness - predictable
    • Genetic liability
  • Posttrauma Phase
    • Exposure to contexts related to the trauma
    • Reevaluation inflation
    • Reinstatement of fear
  • Chronic excessive worry about several events and/or activities for 6+ months, worry must be difficult to control.
  • Less tolerance for uncertainty than nonanxious controls – need to predict the future
  • Anxiety-Worry-Intrusive thoughts Cycle; Cognitive avoidance
gad factors
GAD Factors
  • Benefits:
    • Avoid catastrophe
    • Avoid deeper emotional topics
  • Costs
    • Greater sense of danger and anxiety
    • Negative intrusive thoughts
    • Suppresses emotional and physiological responses to aversive imagery
  • Factors
    • Uncontrollable/Unpredictable events (though not as severe as those in PTSD)
    • Childhood trauma
  • Unwanted and intrusive thoughts, impulses, or images causing marked anxiety or distress; usually accompanied by compulsive behaviors or mental rituals
factors in ocd
Factors in OCD
  • Verbal Conditioning
  • Responsibility and Duty
  • Thought-action fusion
    • Moral equivalent
    • Probability increase
  • Cultural Norms
  • Avoidance → Maintenance
  • Evolutionarily relevant themes
  • From this perspective we can identify risk factors associated with future development of anxiety disorders.
  • Strong sense of mastery and exposure to nonanxious models from early age
  • Exposure therapy