© 2018

Looming Vulnerability

Theory, Research and Practice in Anxiety


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xx
  2. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 1-14
  3. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 31-41
  4. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 43-56
  5. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 57-72
  6. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 97-117
  7. Stephanie E. Cassin, Neil A. Rector, John H. Riskind
    Pages 149-170
  8. Stephanie E. Cassin, Neil A. Rector, John H. Riskind
    Pages 171-192
  9. Stephanie E. Cassin, Neil A. Rector, John H. Riskind
    Pages 193-216
  10. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 255-265
  11. John H. Riskind, Neil A. Rector
    Pages 267-281
  12. Back Matter
    Pages 283-289

About this book


This stimulating resource presents the Looming Vulnerability Model, a nuanced take on the cognitive-behavioral conceptualization of anxiety, worry, and other responses to real or imagined threat. The core feature of the model—the perception of growing, rapidly approaching threat—is traced to humans’ evolutionary past, and this dysfunctional perception is described as it affects cognitive processing, executive functioning, emotions, physiology, and behavior. The LVM framework allows for more subtle understanding of mechanisms of and risk factors for the range of anxiety disorders as well as for more elusive subclinical forms of anxiety, worry, and fear. In addition, the authors ably demonstrate how the LVM can inform and refine cognitive-behavioral and other approaches to conceptualization, assessment, and treatment of these often disabling conditions.This important volume:


·         Introduces the Looming Vulnerability Model in its evolutionary, developmental, cognitive, and ecological contexts.

·         Unites diverse theoretical strands regarding anxiety, fear, and worry including work on wildlife behavior, experimental cognition and perception, neuroimaging, and emotion.

·         Defines the looming cognitive style as a core aspect of vulnerability.

·         Describes the measurement of the looming cognitive style, Looming Maladaptive Style Questionnaire, and measures of looming vulnerability for specific disorders.

·         Details diverse clinical applications of the LVM across the anxiety disorders. 

Spotlighting phenomena particularly relevant to current times, Looming Vulnerability, brings a wealth of important new ideas to researchers studying anxiety disorders and practitioners seeking more avenues for treating anxiety in their patients.  




Beck's model anxiety cognitive therapy evolutionary psychology looming loss panic disorder social phobia vulnerability

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyGeorge Mason UniversityFairfaxUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychiatryUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

About the authors

John Riskind is a Professor of Psychology at George Mason University, and a former Director of research in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania at the Center for Cognitive Therapy with Aaron Beck. He is the author of numerous articles on cognitive styles and mechanisms in anxiety, has co-edited a book with Lauren Alloy and others on Cognitive vulnerability to emotional disorders with Lauren Alloy (Lawrence Erlbaum). He has also coauthored a textbook with Alloy, Abnormal Psychology: Contemporary Perspectives (McGraw Hill). He is the founding editor of the International Journal of Cognitive Therapy, a former editor of the Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, and associate editor of Cognitive Therapy and Research.

Neil A. Rector is a Full Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychological Clinical Science at the University of Toronto and a Senior Research Scientist and the Director of Research at the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre, Department of Psychiatry, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. His current research and clinical interests focus on the study of cognitive and behavioural mechanisms of vulnerability in the development and persistence of anxiety, mood, and OCD disorders and their treatment with cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). His research has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Ontario Mental Health Foundation and resulted in more than 120 scientific publications and 7 published books. In addition to having an active CBT practice, Dr. Rector trains and supervises psychology and psychiatry residents, runs workshops nationally and internationally, and is the past Co-Director of the University of Toronto’s Continuing Medical Education Intermediate and Advanced CBT courses.

Bibliographic information

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“For decades, Professor Riskind and his colleagues have advanced a fascinating program of research focusing how individuals create, in their own mind, an anticipated future of approaching threats, and respond to this creation with considerable anxiety. Riskind and colleagues amassed an impressive evidential body of work validating the presence, and pernicious consequences, of the looming cognitive style and perceptions of rapidly growing and approaching threats. Thanks to this work, we know how to identify and measure this style, and -- not less importantly -- we know how to treat it. Every clinician, from every persuasion, should consult this groundbreaking work and incorporate its wisdom in her practice. Thanks to this book, the work is now highly accessible. A major accomplishment.” (Golan Shahar, Professor of  Psychology, Ben Gurion University, Zlotowsky Chair in Neuropsychology)

“For decades researchers and clinicians have recognized that threat perception is the core process responsible for anxiety and fear.  A better understanding of threat perception is critical to understanding the etiology, persistence and treatment of anxiety.  And yet progress has been slow in recent years, in part due to theoretical inertia.  With the publication of Looming Vulnerability, John Riskind and his coauthor Neil Rector offer an innovative and refreshing perspective on threat perception that injects new life into the cognitive-behavioral perspective on fear and anxiety.  The looming vulnerability model conceptualizes threat perception in terms of dynamic growth and rapid gain, showing how a better understanding of this much neglected feature of threat can enhance cognitive-behavioral models and treatment of the anxiety disorders.  This volume is rich in its review of biological, cognitive, social and behavioral research of anxiety, demonstrating how looming vulnerability is a transdiagnostic, integrative construct with specific treatment implications.  This comprehensive volume contains a wealth of testable ideas of interest to researchers and treatment implications that clinicians will find informative.  It is highly recommended for researchers and clinicians alike interested in a unique perspective on anxiety and its treatment.” (David A. Clark, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Clinical Psychology, The University of New Brunswick, New Brunswick Province, Canada)

“Life is filled with threats and our emotional health is directly linked to the perception of those threats. However, threat perception is not a static, but rather a dynamic experience, which is at the core of the looming vulnerability concept. Riskind and Rector, the foremost experts in this area, have presented a tour de force on the theory, research, and clinical applications of looming vulnerability as it applies to anxiety. It is a must-read for any student, clinician, and researcher working in the clinical field. I highly recommend it.” (Stefan G. Hofmann, Ph.D. Professor, Boston University. Stefan G. Hofmann, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, Department of  Psychological and Brain Sciences, Boston University, USA) 

“Riskind and Rector’s Looming Vulnerability: Theory, Research and Practice represents a major advance in understanding the cognitive and evolutionary basis of anxiety and other emotional disorders. The book presents an innovative cognitive-behavioral theoretical perspective which states that the dynamic experience of threat perception is a core process in anxiety and fear.  The “looming vulnerability model” is based on a synthesis of literature on cognitive science, emotions and cognitive appraisal, neuroscience, and animal and comparative psychology.  It is a source of thought-provoking ideas and insights and even presents a set of new concepts and techniques for clinical practice.” (Lauren B. Alloy is Professor and Joseph Wolpe Distinguished Faculty in the Department of Psychology, Temple University)

“Every so often a book comes along that changes the way you view things. Looming Vulnerability: Theory, Research and Practice in Anxiety by John Riskind and Neil Rector is a book that stands out as a completely innovative, powerful and useful book on clinical anxiety that builds on a wide range of research in perception, cognition, clinical science and evolutionary theory. A magnificent achievement that will appeal to researchers and clinicians interested in understanding how people actually deal with the perception of approaching threat. The clinical techniques are completely new. A fascinating, seminal contribution that should be read by anyone interested in anxiety. One of the “smartest” clinical science and practice books that I have ever read.” (Robert L. Leahy, Ph.D., Director of the American Institute for Cognitive Therapy, New York)