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PhD ceremony Ms. B.E. Sportel: At risk for social and test anxiety. Who are at risk and how can we help?

When:We 29-05-2013 at 14:30

PhD ceremony: Ms. B.E. Sportel, 14.30 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: At risk for social and test anxiety. Who are at risk and how can we help?

Promotor(s): prof. R.B. Minderaa, prof. P.J. de Jong

Faculty: Medical Sciences

The fear of negative evaluation by others plays a central role in social and test anxiety. These anxiety disorders often develop early in adolescence, have a chronic course and are associated with social isolation, substance abuse and depression. The prevention and early intervention of symptoms of social and test anxiety are thus of the utmost importance.

Esther Sportel investigated the effectiveness of two training methods, both aiming to reduce symptoms of social and test anxiety. 1800 adolescents, aged 12-14 years, were screened. This resulted in the selection of 240 individuals with mild to moderate symptoms of social and test anxiety to participate in the study. They received Cognitive Bias Modification (CBM), Cognitive Behavioural Training in a group (CBT), or participated in the control group. The follow-up period was two years. Compared to the control group, CBT showed to be effective in reducing test anxiety in the short and long term. For social anxiety CBT was only effective in the short term. CBM was effective in reducing test anxiety in the long term. In conclusion, offering CBT in schools is recommended as a method for reducing test anxiety symptoms. Furthermore, Sportel investigated risk factors for developing symptoms of anxiety, i.e., the temperamental factors attentional control, behavioural inhibition and the fight-flight-freeze-system. Despite all factors are associated with symptoms of anxiety, symptoms of anxiety themselves turned out to be the best predictor for anxiety after two years. The investigated risk factors had no unique additive value in the prediction of anxiety.

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