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J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2008 Jun;39(2):147-61. Epub 2007 Mar 12.

Why social anxiety persists: an experimental investigation of the role of safety behaviours as a maintaining factor.

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  • 1Oxford Cognitive Therapy Centre, Warneford Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7JX, UK.


Study one used a semi-structured interview to assess the use of safety behaviours in high and low socially anxious participants. As predicted from cognitive models, the high social anxiety group reported using a greater number of safety behaviours, more frequently, in a greater number of situations. Both the high and low social anxiety groups perceived their safety behaviours to be helpful. Study two involved experimentally manipulating the use of safety behaviours and self-focus and demonstrated the use of safety behaviours and self-focused attention to be unhelpful in a number of ways. Results support the role of safety behaviours and self-focused attention in the cognitive model of social phobia, and the value of dropping safety behaviours and reducing self-focus as therapeutic strategies in social phobia.

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