The use of breathing retraining among individuals who fear anxiety-related body sensations: Safety behavior or coping aid?
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) for panic disorder consists of multiple treatment components. Although multicomponent CBT for panic disorder is effective, cognitive behavioral theorists have suggested that one treatment component, breathing retraining, might function as a safety behavior. Safety behaviors are acts aimed at preventing or minimizing feared catastrophe and are thought to maintain pathologic anxiety. An opposing position is that breathing retraining has no detrimental effect on core cognitive processes and may be an effective coping aid. Despite theoretical concern, there has not been an empirical assessment of the effects of breathing retraining on the cognitive processes thought to be involved in the development and maintenance of panic disorder (e.g., catastrophic beliefs, attention toward threat). This study examined the hypothesis that breathing retraining inhibits correction of important cognitive processes when taught within the context of cognitive behavioral psychoeducation. Individuals high in anxiety sensitivity were randomly assigned to a psychoeducation control condition or a psychoeducation plus breathing retraining condition. Results revealed that the addition of breathing retraining did not (a) detract from the gains observed among the control condition on measures of cognitive processes or (b) add to the gains observed among the control condition on measures of coping. The findings are evaluated in light of the available literature regarding breathing retraining and theories of safety behavior.
0633: Cognitive psychology