ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

心理科学进展 ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (9): 2067-2077.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.02067

• 研究前沿 • 上一篇    下一篇


李涛1(), 李永红1, 宋慧1, 高冉1, 冯菲2   

  1. 1中南民族大学教育学院, 武汉 430074
    2武汉工商学院公共基础课部, 武汉 430065
  • 收稿日期:2021-10-06 出版日期:2022-09-15 发布日期:2022-07-21
  • 通讯作者: 李涛
  • 基金资助:

The safety behaviors in anxiety and their effects

LI Tao1(), LI Yonghong1, SONG Hui1, GAO Ran1, FENG Fei2   

  1. 1School of Education, South-Central Minzu University, Wuhan 430074, China
    2Department of Public Course, Wuhan Technology and Business University, Wuhan 430065, China
  • Received:2021-10-06 Online:2022-09-15 Published:2022-07-21
  • Contact: LI Tao


安全行为是个体用于预防或者减轻恐惧后果的行为, 它被认为是焦虑障碍维持的重要机制之一, 也会对焦虑的暴露治疗产生干扰。安全行为与焦虑水平、焦虑相关的认知偏差存在联系, 错误归因假说、注意资源偏离假说和行为信息假说对这种联系做出了解释。此外, 安全行为的使用会削弱焦虑暴露治疗的效果、提高暴露的接受性。未来研究应对安全行为做出更清晰的界定和准确的测量, 进一步改进研究设计, 借鉴第三代行为治疗的理论解释安全行为与焦虑的关系; 同时还需要考察安全行为的双重作用, 开发聚焦于安全行为的治疗方案并评估其效果。

关键词: 安全行为, 焦虑障碍, 暴露治疗


Safety behaviors are actions used to prevent or minimize a feared consequence. They are considered one of the primary mechanisms of maintaining anxiety disorders and may interfere with exposure therapy. Here, we review recent studies on safety behaviors in anxiety and their effects.

A large body of research demonstrates that safety behaviors are closely associated with both the level of anxiety and relevant cognitive bias, such as probability bias, cost bias, and post-event processing. In other words, individuals who use more safety behaviors will experience higher level of anxiety, have greater post-event processing, and overestimate the likelihood and costs of negative outcomes. The misattribution of safety hypothesis, biased attentional resources hypothesis, and behavior as information hypothesis explain the mechanisms of how safety behaviors impact anxiety. To start with, by the lens of misattribution of safety hypothesis, anxious individuals attribute safe outcomes to their safety behaviors rather than recognizing their feared outcomes are irrational or to tolerable. Comparing to misattribution of safety hypothesis, biased attentional resources hypothesis postulates that anxious individuals allocate attention to the execution of safety behaviors, as a result, their attentional resources are directed away from disconfirmatory information. Additionally, behavior as information hypothesis posits that response information may influence stimulus evaluation, and anxious individuals tend to infer danger on the basis of safety behaviors.

Some research reveals that the utilization of safety behaviors can interfere with the efficacy of exposure therapy. In contrast to these results, some literature suggests that safety behaviors may not necessarily undermine the efficacy of CBT. There are three reasons for the inconsistent results. First, the conflicting results may result from the conceptualization of safety behaviors. The definition of safety behaviors emphasizes the underlying behavioral intention and its idiosyncratic character. Thus it is unsure to what extent previous studies employed the same definition. Secondly, Another reason for different findings might be that the measurements of treatment outcomes are carried out mostly during or immediately after the treatments. Thirdly, the reason that may explain the inconsistency is that there may be individual differences in the motivation of safety behaviors. In terms of the acceptability ofnj CBT, some researchers suggest that the judicious use of safety behaviors may make treatment less aversive and reduce refusal and drop-out. However, there is no sufficient practical research to support this viewpoint. Furthermore, when researchers talk about the effects of safety behaviors on anxiety treatment, some important factors, such as the classification of safety behaviors, the treatment process, and the type of anxiety disorder, may interfere with the relationship between safety behaviors and exposure therapy.

The current study puts forward some valuable directions for future studies. First, in order to draw more consistent conclusions, safety behaviors should be defined more clearly and measured more accurately. Secondly, due to some limitations in cross sectional studies and previous experimental studies, study designs need to be improved in the future. Researchers should conduct multiwave longitudinal study and control sample bias as well as important extraneous variables. Thirdly, the third wave of behavioural psychotherapies should be used for reference to explain the relationship between safety behaviors and anxiety. Traditional CBT focuses on modifying the content of cognitive bias. In contrast, the third wave of behavioural psychotherapies focuse more on the persons' relationship to thought and emotion than on their content. From this perspective, theorists can make a new explanation concerning the impacts of safety behaviors on anxiey. Fourthly, It is necessary to investigate not only the negative but also positive effects of these behaviors on anxiety treatment. Finally, more attention should be paid to the development of treaments focusing on safety behaviors. When designing more targeted treatments, clinical practitioners should put much emphasis on how to recognize and eliminate the false safety behaviors.

Key words: safety behaviours, anxiety disorder, exposure therapy