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An Argument for Reconsidering the Role of Social Support in Treating Anxiety Disorders.

Abstract

Reminders of loved ones have long been avoided during extinction-based treatments because of their assumed status as safety signals, which, by inhibiting fear in the moment, impair the long-term outcomes of fear extinction. Yet, recent work has demonstrated that in contrast to standard safety signals, social support reminders actually enhance fear extinction and lead to lasting reduction of fear, suggesting that they may have beneficial effects during exposure therapy that have before-now been overlooked. Here, we argue for a revision of the assumption that social support is detrimental to fear extinction processes and propose that future work should focus on the potential of social support reminders to improve treatment outcomes in those with anxiety disorders.

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