Reduce Anxiety with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Self-compassionate people tend to have lower levels of social anxiety—perhaps because self-compassion includes mindfulness, which soothes the stress associated with anxiety.” – Jill Suttie
It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well and the anxiety is overwhelming, causing the individual to withdraw. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and feeling embarrassed or humiliated by their actions. This fear may be so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other activities and may negatively affect the person’s ability to form relationships.
Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and also Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) have been shown to be effective in treating Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
A therapeutic technique that contains mindfulness training and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). It is a mindfulness-based psychotherapy technique that is employs many of the techniques of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). ACT focuses on the individual’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior and how they interact to impact their psychological and physical well-being. It then works to change thinking to alter the interaction and produce greater life satisfaction. ACT employs mindfulness practices to increase awareness and develop an attitude of acceptance and compassion in the presence of painful thoughts and feelings. ACT teaches individuals to “just notice”, accept and embrace private experiences and focus on behavioral responses that produce more desirable outcomes.
In today’s Research News article “The effectiveness of acceptance and commitment group therapy on social anxiety in female dormitory residents in Isfahan university of medical sciences.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6432841/), Toghiani and colleagues recruited female college students and randomly assigned them to receive 5-week, one 2-hour session per week, group Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) or to a no-treatment control group. Before the intervention and 2 months later the students were measured for social anxiety, performance anxiety and psychological flexibility.
They found that in comparison to baseline and the no-treatment control group, the students who received ACT had significantly reduced social anxiety, social avoidance, performance anxiety, and performance avoidance. These results must be interpreted cautiously as there was not an active control condition leaving open the possibility of placebo effects and experimenter bias effects. Nevertheless, the study suggests that ACT is an effective therapy to reduce anxiety in female college students with lasting effects.
So, reduce anxiety with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
“the art of mindfulness meditation practice. If you are suffering with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD), regular practice will eventually improve your self-concept and ability to handle negative emotions. You will also learn how to better respond to troubling thoughts and treat yourself with more compassion.” – Arlin Cuncic
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Toghiani, Z., Ghasemi, F., & Samouei, R. (2019). The effectiveness of acceptance and commitment group therapy on social anxiety in female dormitory residents in Isfahan university of medical sciences. Journal of education and health promotion, 8, 41. doi:10.4103/jehp.jehp_111_18
AIM AND BACKGROUND:
Social anxiety can interfere with performance and academic success in students. One of the third-generation treatments for social anxiety is acceptance and commitment therapy. Therefore, the current study aims to determine the effectiveness of acceptance and commitment group therapy on social anxiety of female dormitory residents of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences.
This was a semiempirical study with pre- and posttest conducted on 71 female students living in the dormitory of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. The study was carried out in five training sessions using the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale and second version of acceptance and commitment scale whose validity and reliability were confirmed. Data were analyzed using Student’s t-test.
The findings showed that acceptance and commitment group therapy has affected the social anxiety in female dormitory residents of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences (P < 0.0001).
The findings of this study can be used by student deputies of universities, consultation centers, as well as counselors and psychologists to improve the conditions for students.