The Impact of Rational Emotive Behaviour Education on Anxiety in Teenagers*

Article excerpt

Abstract

The present study is based on the assumption that teenagers endorsing high levels of irrational cognitions are prone to higher levels of anxiety, which can be diminished by rational emotive education (REE). To test this assumption we developed a brief REE intervention that was offered to a group of 88 10th-12th grade students from a high school in Cluj-Napoca. ABS II (irrationality) scores and STAI and HADS scores (anxiety) were used to assess the dependent variables, whereas the independent variables were represented by the presence/absence of the rational emotive behavior intervention and by gender, respectively.

The intervention consisted of a one-hour REE lesson, followed by a 14-day period during which the students were required to read the Rationality vs. Irrationality Decalogue (David, 2007) daily. After two weeks, both groups (intervention/non-intervention) were assessed again.

Our results indicate a strong correlation between irrational thinking and anxiety among teenagers. Moreover, REE resulted in a significant reduction in anxiety levels, and a decrease in irrational thinking.

Keywords: anxiety, rational emotive behavior education, teenagers

The 21st century teenagers are facing a series of difficulties arising from their situation at home and at school, which overlap with the inherent problems of this age related to growing up and developing an identity, and with a range of community issues, such as drug use, AIDS, lack of employment perspectives. Anxiety, anger and depression are the three emotional responses by which teenagers react to these difficulties (Bernard, 2004).

Anxiety disorders are among the most frequent psychiatric disorders among children and teenagers. A meta-analysis conducted by Twenge (2000) including various studies carried out on the American population, shows that anxiety levels have increased dramatically in the USA. On the average, the level of anxiety displayed nowadays by a child who is considered healthy is comparable to the anxiety reported in children inpatients of psychiatric departments 50 years ago.

Taking into account these data and the complex individual and social context, we conclude that the strategies teenagers use in order to adapt are extremely important in fostering their mental health.

According to the rational emotive behavior theory, developed by Albert Ellis, at the core of all emotional disorders, including anxiety, is the individual's tendency to make absolute and rigid evaluations of himself/herself, of others and of life (Ellis & Dryden 1997).

These unrealistic evaluations, called irrational beliefs, may generate, besides emotional disorders, an entire range of self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, aggressiveness, school failure, relational problems, eating disorders and suicide.

Rational emotive behavior education (REE), which can be used in class, aims at teaching teenagers problem-solving techniques and at enhancing their emotional strength by making them aware of the irrational beliefs causing anxiety and replacing them with rational, adaptive beliefs (Bernard, 2004; Popa, 2004).

The meta-analysis carried out by Trip, Vernon and McMahon (2007) using the results of 26 published research studies on the topic of the efficiency of REE led to the following conclusions:

* REE has a significant impact on the reduction of irrational beliefs and of dysfunctional behaviors and has a moderate effect on changing dysfunctional interferences and negative emotions;

* The efficiency of REE increases if participants are preoccupied with their problems;

* The psychometric tools used in the evaluation of irrational beliefs affect the results obtained;

* A higher efficiency was noted in the case of children and teenagers when compared to young adults.

Besides their primary problem, anxious teenagers also suffer from secondary emotional problems, which very often occur in the form of frustration, anger, and guilt related to their anxiety. …