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Evidence of Effectiveness of CBT for Anxiety & Specific Phobias

CBT comprises the overwhelming evidence of empirically supported treatments for a wide variety of problems including depression, eating disorders, addictions, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (American Psychological Association (APA) Task Force on the Promotion and Dissemination of Psychological Procedures, 1993; Chambless & Hollon, 1998). CBT is also an enduring treatment for anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and for specific phobias (Hofmann & Smits, 2008).

Studies have shown that for patients with anxiety disorders, including specific phobia, exposure-based CBT can significantly reduce the fear associated with (McMurty et al., 2015). A 2015 randomized, controlled trial testing the effectiveness of exposure therapy in conjunction with the physical intervention of applied muscle tension in children and adults with intense needle phobia found this form of CBT to be beneficial for the majority of both participant types (McMurty et al., 2015).

Moreover, cognitive-behavioral therapy has been cited as the most effective treatment for childhood anxiety, including specific phobia (Jansen et al., 2012). A 2016 study concluded that in vivo (in person) exposure therapy is the most recommended treatment for patients seven years and older with severe needle phobia (McMurty et. al, 2016). Additionally, the study declared that the utilization of exposure-based treatment can improve overall health outcomes due to a new willingness to undergo standard health care procedures—which could involve needles (McMurty et. al, 2016).

Finally, multiple studies provide evidence for the short-term efficacy of CBT treatment in youth with anxiety disorders and one long-term study found that exposure-based CBT led to remission of phobic and anxiety disorders in children and adolescents 8 to 13 years post-treatment (Saavedra, Silverman, Morgan-Lopez, & Kurtines, 2010).