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Safety behaviours in generalized anxiety disorder : a clinical adult sample and a community youth sample Baker, Heather Victoria


Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health problem, affect individuals across the lifespan, and cause significant impairment and distress in a variety of life domains. Safety behaviour use has been identified as contributing to the maintenance of anxiety. The reduction of safety behaviours is a component of several adult-focused Cognitive Behavioural Therapies for anxiety. Safety behaviour use is discussed in the literature specific to individual anxiety disorders. Currently, there are few psychometrically sound measures of safety behaviours available to researchers and clinicians. The few available safety behaviour measures are associated with Social Phobia (SoP) and Panic Disorder. Few studies have examined safety behaviours associated with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). This study is composed of two separate studies : Study 1 evaluated the psychometric properties of a measure of GAD-associated safety behaviours, the Generalized Safety Behaviour Scale (GSBS), in an adult sample diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD; n = 36) compared with adults with Social Phobia (SoP; n = 34) and with non-anxious controls (n = 38). The GSBS demonstrated strong internal consistency and displayed convergent validity with measures of worry and intolerance of uncertainty. Two underlying factors were identified. Construct validity of the GSBS was further assessed through one-way ANOVAs revealing that participants with GAD engaged in more frequent GAD-associated safety behaviour use than those with SoP or no anxiety. Study 2 contributed to further psychometric investigation of the GSBS and explored safety behaviour use by youth in a community sample (N = 175). The GSBS demonstrated strong internal consistency, and good convergent validity. Two underlying factors were identified. Linear regression analysis revealed that youth with high levels of anxiety engaged in more frequent use of safety behaviours. A MANOVA analysis, grouping youth into low/moderate and at-risk/clinical levels of anxiety, revealed that the at-risk/clinical group endorsed more frequent use of safety behaviours. Implications include a discussion of the benefits of using safety behaviours to help inform treatment sessions, the importance of developing psychometrically sound measures of safety behaviours, and the need to examine safety behaviour use in youth.

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