A Current Learning Theory Approach to the Etiology and Course of Anxiety and Related Disorders

Richard E. Zinbarg*, Alexander L. Williams, Susan Mineka

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The authors describe how contemporary learning theory and research provide the basis for models of the etiology and maintenance of anxiety and related disorders. They argue that contemporary learning theory accounts for much of the complexity associated with individual differences in the development and course of these disorders. These insights from modern research on learning overcome the limitations of earlier behavioral approaches, which were overly simplistic and have been justifiably criticized. The authors show how considerations of early learning histories and temperamental vulnerabilities affect the short- and long-term likelihood that experiences with stressful events will lead to the development of anxiety disorders. They also discuss how contextual variables during and after stressful learning experiences influence the maintenance of anxiety disorder symptoms. Thus, contemporary learning models provide a rich and nuanced understanding of the etiology and course of anxiety and related disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-258
Number of pages26
JournalAnnual Review of Clinical Psychology
StatePublished - 2022


  • anxiety disorders
  • conditioning theory
  • etiology
  • maintenance
  • temperament

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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