An experimental investigation of the role of safety-seeking behaviours in the maintenance of panic disorder with agoraphobia

Behav Res Ther. 1999 Jun;37(6):559-74. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(98)00153-3.


This study evaluates the hypothesis that safety-seeking behaviours play an important role in maintaining anxiety because they prevent patients from benefiting from disconfirmatory experience. Patients suffering from panic disorder with agoraphobia carried out a behaviour test, closely followed by an experimental session, which included a brief (15 min) period of exposure during which participants either stopped or maintained within-situation safety-seeking behaviours. When the behaviour test was repeated within two days, patients who had stopped their safety-seeking behaviours during the experimental session showed a significantly greater decrease in catastrophic beliefs and anxiety than those who had maintained safety-seeking behaviour. This difference was also reflected in questionnaires measuring clinical anxiety. These results are consistent with the cognitive hypothesis.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Agoraphobia / complications*
  • Agoraphobia / psychology*
  • Agoraphobia / therapy
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Attitude
  • Avoidance Learning / classification*
  • Desensitization, Psychologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic / classification
  • Panic Disorder / complications*
  • Panic Disorder / psychology
  • Panic Disorder / therapy
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales