Anxiety disorders

Anxiety disorders are among the psychological illnesses with the highest prevalence rates. Although there are first-line treatments for anxiety disorders with medium to large effect sizes, response rates to exposure therapy indicate a clinically significant improvement only in about two-thirds of patients. Furthermore, not all patients benefit equally well as recent studies demonstrate relatively high rates of treatment dropout and relapse. Thus, over one-third of patients may be left as “non-responders” toward a first-line standard treatment or experience resurgence of fear with severe consequences for patients and increasing costs for societies. These numbers indicate the need for basic research to understand relevant (transdiagnostic)  mechanisms and for translational research regarding the application of basic results in clinical practice.  

Theme and Objectives

In this research group we focus on basic research regarding psychological processes (e.g. emotion processing) that are potentially impaired in anxiety disorders. We aim for a better understanding of mechanisms relevant in patients with anxiety disorders compared to healthy individuals. In our research, we are also taking a transdiagnostic perspective looking for disorder-specific versus common impairments between patients with anxiety disorders and/or with affective disorders. Finally, we are interested in (bio-)markers for the prediction of treatment response and in neural correlates of psychological interventions.


  • M.Sc. Joscha Böhnlein
  • Dipl.-Inf. Claas Flint
  • Dr. med. Jonathan Repple
  • M. Sc. Elisa Schrammen
  • M.Sc. Lisa Sindermann

Current funding

  • Intramural Funding (IMF: LE 1219 04): Optimization of exposure therapy by enhancing inhibitory learning mechanisms - lnvestigation of spider-phobic nonresponders to virtual reality exposure therapy (to Lisa Leehr)
  • Intramural Funding (IMF: LE 12 1703): Transdiagnsotic investigation of emotion processing – disorder specific versus general neurobiological impairments in depression and social anxiety disorder (to Lisa Leehr)
  • SFB-TRR 58 “Fear, Anxiety, Anxiety Disorders” Projects C09 and Z02 to Udo Dannlowski

Current selected publications

Böhnlein, J.. Altegoer, L., Muck, N. K., Roesmann, K., Redlich, R., Dannlowski, U., Leehr, E. J. (2020). Factors influencing the success of exposure therapy for specific phobia: A systematic review. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

Schwarzmeier, H.*, Leehr, E. J.*, Böhnlein, J., Seeger, F., Roesmann, K., Gathmann, B., Herrmann, M., Siminski, N., Junghöfer, M., Straube, T., Grotegerd, D., Dannlowski, U. (2019). Theranostic markers for personalized therapy of spider phobia: Methods of a bicentric external cross-validation machine learning approach. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research.

Leehr, E.J., Redlich, R., Zaremba, D., Dohm, K., Böhnlein, J., Grotegerd, D., Kähler, C., Repple, J., Förster, K., Opel, N., Meinert, S., Enneking, V., Bürger, C., Hahn, T., Wilkens, E., Dernbecher, M., Kugel, H., Arolt, V., Dannlowski, U. (2019) Structural and functional neural correlates of vigilant and avoidant regulation style. Journal of Affective Disorders, 258: 96–101.


Dr. rer. nat. Lisa Leehr, Psychologische Psychotherapeutin
E-Mail: leehr(at)­uni-muenster(dot)­de

Administration assistance:
Bettina Walden, M.A.

Tel.: +49 (0)251 / 83-56610
E-Mail: bettina.walden@­