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J Anxiety Disord. 2011 Jan;25(1):49-57. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2010.08.002. Epub 2010 Aug 10.

Social anxiety and posttraumatic stress symptoms: the impact of distressing social events.

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Anxiety and Illness Behaviours Laboratory and Department of Psychology, University of Regina, 3737 Wascana Parkway, Regina, SK S4S 0A2, Canada.


Recent evidence supports the notion that relatively common social events, such as public humiliation and teasing, may precipitate or exacerbate symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD; Erwin et al., 2006; McCabe et al., 2010). In addition, individuals with SAD often report event-specific hallmark symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSS; e.g., intrusive memories, avoidance, hyperarousal) following significant negative social events. Although intriguing, there is a paucity of research data to date exploring the relationships between negative social events, social anxiety, and PTSS. The present study (1) assessed endorsement rates of negative social events; (2) compared patterns of social anxiety and PTSS reporting among persons reporting negative social events relative to persons reporting the Criterion A1 events associated with posttraumatic stress disorder; and (3) evaluated the interrelationships between social anxiety and PTSS, and common constructs including fear of negative evaluation, anxiety sensitivity, and depression. Participants included community members (n = 601; 74% women; M(age) = 25.8, SD = 9.8) who endorsed experiencing a significantly negative social event. Approximately 55% of all participants reported experiencing a negative social event, with one-third of those indicating it was worse than the Criterion A events they had experienced. Participants reporting negative social events scored higher on measures of social anxiety and PTSS than those reporting only Criterion A events. Trauma symptoms only predicted social anxiety symptoms for participants who reported a negative social event. Comprehensive results and directions for future research are discussed.

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