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The Research

Research Supporting an Attention Bias in Anxious Individuals 

Attention retraining is based on scientific models of anxiety suggesting how our attention is captured by threatening material in the environment plays a large role in how anxious we feel (Mathews & MacLeod, 2005; Williams, Watts, MacLeod, & Mathews, 1997).  Consistent with these models, 25 years of research shows that patients with clinical levels of anxiety (Mogg & Bradley, 2005), as well as individuals with subclinical levels of anxiety  (Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007) preferentially attend to threatening information in their environment. More recently, studies (Rutherford, Campbell, Ebsworthy, & Holker, 2002) have demonstrated that if you change how people focus their attention on threatening information you can reduce their anxiety in stressful situations. Moreover, studies now suggest that patients suffering from an anxiety disorder can also benefit from attention retraining (see, Amir, Beard, Cobb,& Bomyea, 2009, Schmidta, Richey, Bucknerb, & Timpanoa, 2009; Amir, Beard, Taylor, Klumppc, Elias, Burns, & Chen, 2010).

Research From Peer-Reviewed Journals Supporting Attention Retraining

Research has shown that Attention Retraining produces significant reductions in social anxiety and generalized anxiety and worry.  But how much relief can you expect? The good news is that you can expect meaningful, life-altering reductions in anxiety and worry! Below is a summary of the results that we have found using Attention Retraining.

  • Amir, N., Weber, G., Beard, C., Bomyea, J., & Taylor, C. (2008). The Effect of a Single Session Attention Modification Program on Response to a Public Speaking Challenge in Socially Anxious Individuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117, 860-868.

This study found 8-sessions of Attention Retraining significantly reduced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder per participants self-report of their anxiety and per research interview compared to a placebo group. 58% of research participants receiving Attention Retraining no longer met criterion for generalized anxiety disorder in just 8 sessions.

  • Amir, N., Weber, G., Beard, C., Bomyea, J., & Taylor, C. (2008). The Effect of a Single Session Attention Modification Program on Response to a Public Speaking Challenge in Socially Anxious Individuals. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 117, 860-868.

This study found that 1 session of Attention Retraining significantly reduced anxiety levels and improved performance during a speech in socially anxious individuals as compared to socially anxious individuals in a placebo group.

  • Najmi, S. & Amir, N. (in press) ;The Effect of Attention Training on a Behavioral Test of Contamination Fears in Individuals with Subclinical Obsessive-Compulsive Symptoms. Journal of Abnormal Psychology.

This study found that one session of Attention Retraining significantly reduced contamination fears and avoidance of situations feared to be contaminated in individuals who scored high in contamination fears compared with those not receiving Attention Retraining.

  • Amir, N., Beard, C., Taylor, C., Klumpp, H., Elias, J., Burns, M., & Chen, X. (in press) Attention Training in Individuals with Generalized Social Phobia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

This study using a randomized, double-blind placebo controlled design found that individuals with social anxiety disorder who performed Attention Retraining had significantly less social anxiety and less functional impairment than those who received placebo. 50% of those receiving Attention Retraining no longer met criterion for social anxiety disorder in just 8 sessions of Attention Retraining over a 4-week period. This study also found that gains were maintained at a 4-month follow-up.

Recently Completed Research Supporting an Attention Retraining

Clinical Application of Attention Retraining for Adolescent Anxiety This study investigated the use of Attention Retraining as an addition to on-going cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with severely anxious adolescents.  All participants received daily CBT at a specialty residential treatment center at Rogers Memorial Hospital. Half of the participants received active and the other half a placebo program. Both groups significantly improved from admission to discharge due to the effects of CBT. However, those receiving the active program exhibited a significant enhancement on measures of social anxiety and a general anxiety measure when compared to the placebo condition.

Recent Grants Supporting Attention Retraining

Dr. Nader Amir, PhD. has been the Principal Investigator of grants from the National Institute of Mental Health (R34MH 073004-01, R34MH 077129, R01MH087623-01) totaling over two million dollars to investigate attention retraining over the past 5 years.

*Attention Retraining is protected by patent rights held by San Diego State University and can only be used by purchasing Attention Retraining on this web site or by receiving written permission from Cognitive Retraining Technologies, LLC.

Attention retraining is based on scientific models of anxiety suggesting how our attention is captured by threatening material in the environment plays a large role in how anxious we feel (Mathews & MacLeod, 2005; Williams, Watts, MacLeod, & Mathews, 1997).  Consistent with these models, 25 years of research shows that patients with clinical levels of anxiety (Mogg & Bradley, 2005), as well as individuals with subclinical levels of anxiety  (Bar-Haim, Lamy, Pergamin, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2007) preferentially attend to threatening information in their environment. More recently, studies (Rutherford, Campbell, Ebsworthy, & Holker, 2002) have demonstrated that if you change how people focus their attention on threatening information you can reduce their anxiety in stressful situations. Moreover, studies now suggest that patients suffering from an anxiety disorder can also benefit from attention retraining (see, Amir, Beard, Cobb,& Bomyea, 2009, Schmidta, Richey, Bucknerb, & Timpanoa, 2009; Amir, Beard, Taylor, Klumppc, Elias, Burns, & Chen, 2010).