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Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Anxiety Disorders

Updated: Jan 22

An effective behavioral treatment for anxiety disorders, depressive disorders, externalizing behaviors, ADHD, high-functioning autism, and other mental health issues, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (Hayes, 2004) has helped kids, teens, and adults. A variety of anxiety disorders, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Specific Phobia, Separation Anxiety Disorder, and other associated disorders, have been found to be successfully treated using ACT treatment (Arch et al., 2012).

With a lifetime frequency of 30% among people in the United States, anxiety disorders are the most prevalent mental health issues (for more information, go to It is believed that genetic and biological predispositions that interact with environmental variables cause anxiety disorders. The causes of anxiety disorders are complicated and cannot be boiled down to a single factor.

Despite the complexity of the etiology of anxiety disorders, effective therapy can lead to improvements in signs and functioning. It is advised that you have any physical health concerns that might be contributing to your symptoms 'ruled-out' by your doctor. In reality, several physical health issues' symptoms might resemble or even be the cause of certain anxiety symptoms.

Psychological theories based on empirical research have been created to guide various treatment modalities if a skilled mental health practitioner diagnoses you or your child with an anxiety problem. For instance, the Two-factor Theory of Fear and Avoidance (Mowrer, 1951) asserts that people who experience anxiety symptoms automatically anticipate feeling anxious when exposed to certain environmental stimuli that have previously caused anxiety or have been linked to an anxiety trigger (note: this is known as the "automatic anticipatory response" or ARI).

If a qualified mental health practitioner diagnoses you or your child with an anxiety condition, psychological theories founded on empirical research have been created to guide various treatment modalities. For instance, the Two-factor Theory of Fear and Avoidance (Mowrer, 1951), which asserts that people with anxiety symptoms automatically anticipate anxiety in the presence of particular environmental stimuli that have previously triggered anxiety or been linked to a trigger (note: this is called the Two-factor Theory of Fear and Avoidance), provides an example.

Acceptance and dedication The main objective of therapy is to assist you in acquiring psychological flexibility, or the capacity to respond to your feelings, ideas, and environmental circumstances with openness and acceptance while maintaining a commitment to your essential values. We will all encounter sorrow and suffering, according to ACT, but how we respond to that misery will decide how our mental health turns out. The symptoms of anxiety disorders can frequently be incapacitating, impairing social interactions, careers, and academic performance. Instead of facing anxiety symptoms head-on, actions or decisions may be taken to prevent or avoid them. When previously mentioned, the avoidance reaction is strengthened as more anxiety-provoking situations or stimuli are avoided. Six techniques from ACT treatment can help with avoidance.


Arch, J. J., Eifert, G. H., Davies, C., Vilardaga, J. C. P., Rose, R. D., & Craske, M. G. (2012). Randomized clinical trial of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) versus acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for mixed anxiety disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(5), 750–765.

Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy and the new behavior therapies: Mindfulness, acceptance and relationship. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: Expanding the cognitive behavioral tradition (pp. 1-29). New York: Guilford.

Mowrer, O. H. (1951). Two-factor learning theory: summary and comment. Psychological Review, 58(5), 350–354.

Seligman M. E. P., Johnston J. C. (1973). “A cognitive theory of avoidance learning,” in Contemporary Approaches to Conditioning and Learning, eds McGuigan F. J., Lumsden D. B. (Washington, DC: Winston & Sons Inc; ), 69–110


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