Interoceptive exposure exercises for social anxiety
Individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD) commonly experience panic attacks and evidence increased anxiety sensitivity (AS) specific to noticeable anxiety sensations. Interoceptive exposure (IE) is an effective treatment for reducing AS, but few IE tasks target fears of blushing, sweating, or trembling, which are incorporated within AS social concerns and especially feared by individuals with SAD. The primary study aims were trifold: (1) identify novel IE tasks that produce blushing, sweating, and/or trembling; (2) assess the intensity of sensations and anxiety produced by a series of novel and validated IE tasks; and (3) evaluate the incremental validity of combining an IE task and a speech task. Individuals (N = 55) with heightened fear of noticeably blushing, sweating, and/or trembling completed a control task and 8 IE tasks (e.g., hot sauce, hyperventilation). All tasks produced greater intensity of anxiety and sensations compared to the control task (ps < .001; range of ηp2 = .20–.50). Responses to the combination of an IE task and social task compared to a social task alone did not differ significantly. Future directions for research and clinical implications of the findings are discussed.