Effects of a transdiagnostic cognitive behaviour therapy-based programme on the natural course of anxiety symptoms in adolescence

Alejandro de la Torre-Luque, Aina Fiol-Veny, Cecilia Essau, Maria Balle, Xavier Bornas

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Background: Anxiety disorders frequently have an onset during adolescence, which when left untreated could lead to a chronic course and outcome. This study aimed to examine the way in which a cognitive behaviour therapy-based programme (Super Skills for Life – adolescent version; SSL-A) could change the course of anxiety symptoms through adolescent’s behavioural performance and cardiac function.
Method: Sixty-one adolescents at risk of developing an anxiety disorder (45.30% boys; M = 13.76 years, SD = 0.32) were randomly assigned to either the intervention (IG), placebo (PG), or waitlist group (WG). Adolescents in the IG participated in SSL-A over an 8-week period. Adolescents in the PG participated in an 8-session school-work programme. Adolescents in the WG did not receive any intervention. Anxiety symptoms were assessed every six months, twice before intervention, as well as at post- and six months after the intervention. Participants in the IG additionally underwent a stressful task to assess behavioural performance and cardiac adjustment.
Results: Adolescents in the IG significantly reported lower levels of social phobia and generalised anxiety symptoms at the follow-up assessment compared to the adolescents in the PG and the WG. They also showed a significant improvement in vocal quality and lower discomfort during a stressful task at post-intervention, and showed attenuated cardiac recovery indexes, in terms of sample entropy.
Limitations: The study has a small sample size.
Conclusion: SSL-A changed natural course of anxiety symptoms, as shown by a significant reduction in social phobia and generalised anxiety symptoms, and a significant improvement in behaviour and physiological (cardiac) function during a stressful situation.

© 2019, Elsevier. The attached document (embargoed until 30/11/2020) is an author produced version of a paper published in JOURNAL OF AFFECTIVE DISORDERS uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at the link. Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)474–482
Early online date30 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


  • Anxiety
  • depression
  • heart rate variability
  • transdiagnostic intervention, CBT-based intervention

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