Anxiety and Panic Laboratory

Principal Investigator

Richard E. Zinbarg, PhD

Patricia M. Nielsen Research Chair, The Family Institute
Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Department of Psychology

Everyone feels anxiety or panic at one time or another. Anxiety and panic are natural responses that help us cope with danger or threats. But when anxiety or panic occurs at levels out of proportion to the danger, or when they have an adverse affect on daily living, there may be an anxiety or panic disorder. Those who suffer from these disorders often find it difficult to be in situations that most people consider routine – for example, driving, shopping, attending a party or just walking down a crowded sidewalk. Whereas we do have current treatments including individual cognitive behavior therapy and medications with demonstrated efficacy in treating anxiety and panic, these treatments are far from completely effective. A small minority of people aren't helped at all by these treatments and many people are left with some residual symptoms. To improve our ability to reduce the suffering associated with anxiety and panic disorders, the Anxiety and Panic Laboratory studies the assessment, development, treatment and prevention of anxiety and panic disorders. The laboratory is the research arm of the Anxiety and Panic Treatment Program which is a joint program of Northwestern University's Department of Psychology and The Family Institute at Northwestern University.

Recently completed pilot research in the Anxiety and Panic Laboratory has investigated the relationship between couples functioning and a particular anxiety disorder - Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which is characterized by frequent worry and tension. This research focused on particular interaction patterns involving hostility and non-hostile criticism in couples in which one person has GAD. What we found is that these couple interaction patterns predict the response of the partner with GAD to individual cognitive-behavior therapy, the current gold standard treatment for GAD. Based on the results of this pilot research and similar findings reported by other laboratories for anxiety disorders other than GAD, and in collaboration with Dr. Tamara Sher, the Anxiety and Panic Laboratory is currently developing and pilot testing the efficacy of a transdiagnostic cognitive behavioral couples therapy for anxiety and panic disorders .

The Anxiety and Panic Laboratory also conducts research on innovations in individual therapy to improve the efficacy of our treatments for anxiety and panic. One such line of research we have recently initiated in collaboration with cognitive neuroscientist Dr. Ken Paller (Professor of Psychology, Northwestern University) aims to test whether the learning and memory consolidation that occurs during sleep can be harnessed to boost the effectiveness of individual cognitive behavior therapy for anxiety and panic.


Zinbarg, R., Mashal, N., Black, D. & Fluckiger, C. (2010). The future and promise of cognitive behavior therapy: A commentary. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 33, 711 - 727.

Fluckiger, C., Wusten, G., Zinbarg, R. & Wampold, B. (2010). Resource activation: Using clients' own strengths in psychotherapy and counseling. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Black, D., Uliaszek, A., Lewis, A. & Zinbarg, R. (2009). Generalized anxiety disorder and interpersonal relationships: The case for a systemic intervention. In E. Cuyler & M. Ackhart (Eds.), Psychology of Relationships (pp. 65 - 85). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Zinbarg, R., Uliaszek, A. & Adler, J. (2008). The role of personality in psychotherapy for anxiety and depression. Journal of Personality, 76, 1649 - 1687.

Zinbarg, R., Lee, J.E. & Yoon, L. (2007). Dyadic Predictors of Outcome in a Cognitive-Behavioral Program for Patients with Generalized Anxiety Disorder in Committed Relationships: A ‘Spoonful of Sugar' and a Dose of Non-Hostile Criticism May Help. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 699 - 713.

Yoon, L. & Zinbarg, R. (2007). Generalized anxiety disorder and entry into marriage or a marriage-like relationship. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21, 955 - 965.

Zinbarg, R., Craske, M. & Barlow, D.H. (2006). Therapist's Guide for the Mastery of Your Anxiety and Worry Program. (2nd Edition). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Mohlman, J. & Zinbarg, R. (2000). What kind of attention is necessary for fear reduction? An empirical test of the Emotional Processing Model. Behavior Therapy, 31, 113-133.

Street, L., Salman, E., Garfinkle, R., Silvestri, J., Carrasco, J., Cardenas, D., Zinbarg, R., Barlow, D. & Liebowitz, M. (1997). Discriminating between generalized anxiety disorder and anxiety disorder not otherwise specified in a hispanic population: Is it only a matter of worry? Depression and Anxiety, 5, 1 - 6.

Zinbarg, R. & Barlow, D.H. (1996). The structure of anxiety and the DSM-III-R anxiety disorders: A hierarchical model. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 105, 181-193.

Brown, T., Moras, K., Zinbarg, R. & Barlow, D. H. (1993). Differentiating generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive compulsive behavior. Behavior Therapy, 24, 227-240.

Zinbarg, R., Craske, M. & Barlow, D.H. (1994). Therapist's Guide for the Mastery of Your Anxiety and Worry Program. Albany, NY: Graywing Publishing Co.

Zinbarg, R. (1993). Information processing and classical conditioning: Implications for exposure therapy and the integration of cognitive therapy and behavior therapy. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 24, 129-139.

For more information about the Anxiety and Panic Laboratory, contact Richard Zinbarg, PhD, at 847-733-4300, ext. 609.

For participation opportunities in the research conducted in this laboratory, please call 847-733-4300, ext 609 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..