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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Is breathing control an effective coping strategy for public speaking anxiety? Hait, Aaron Vincent


Two studies were conducted to determine whether controlled, abdominally-predominant breathing could be accurately implemented during periods of acute anxiety by speech anxious/phobic individuals, and what effect breathing control has on autonomic and subjective indices of anxiety. Twenty-two moderately speech anxious young adults took part in Study 1. The results of this study indicated that after two weeks of training, only 50% of trainees were able to implement the controlled breathing technique with any degree of accuracy while waiting to deliver an impromptu speech before a small audience. No one were successful at reliably implementing the technique during the speech itself. As in previous research, training had little impact on autonomic arousal but was associated with improvements in self-reported anxiety. Similar findings emerged for Study 2, which differed from Study 1 in that it involved a larger (N = 48) and more highly speech anxious sample who participated in a longer (4-week), more intensive training program. Although training had little effect on subjective or autonomic arousal during speech anticipation and speech delivery, it did result in significantly higher predictions of speech aptitude and emotional control relative to no treatment. Such findings suggest that breathing control is not a useful emotion-focused coping strategy on its own, but may add to the effectiveness of exposure-based therapies by enhancing patients' self-efficacy and willingness to expose themselves to feared situations.

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