Exposure to Social Anxiety Words: Treatment for Social Phobia Based On the Stroop Paradigm

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Research on the emotional Stroop task and language conditioning has demonstrated that words can acquire emotion-eliciting functions. For example, social anxiety words (e.g., speech, conversation) can elicit anxiety in individuals diagnosed with social phobia, suggesting that these words may be useful as exposure stimuli. This article presents exposure to social anxiety words, using a Stroop paradigm, as a language-based procedure for reducing anxiety. This procedure is similar to imaginai exposure, as patients are not placed in actual feared situations, but are exposed to stimuli that have become associated with the fearful environmental situation. Exposure to social anxiety words may be useful as an initial or adjunctive treatment to reduce the anxiety of social phobia patients before they enter group therapy or perform in vivo exposure exercises. Initial pilot data and clinical implications are presented.



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