Underlying processes in social anxiety

Manning, RP
(2016) Underlying processes in social anxiety. Doctor of Clinical Psychology thesis, University of Liverpool.

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The overall aim of the thesis is to explore some theorised processes underlying social anxiety. Social anxiety is the experience of anxiety in response to social or performance situations, and is a common (Henderson, Gilbert & Zimbardo, 2014) and impairing (Wittchen & Jacobi, 2005) experience, with high comorbidity with other anxiety and mood problems (Kessler, Avenivoli, et al., 2012; Kessler, Petukhova, et al., 2012) and some indication that it can lead to decreasing functioning and increasing distress over time (Beesdo et al., 2007). More than half the population report some degree of shyness or social worry (Henderson, Gilbert & Zimbardo, 2014), and understanding what underlying functions may perseverate to impair functioning may aid understanding, prevention and earlier intervention to reduce distress and increase functioning. The first chapter of this thesis is a systematic review. Several forms of attachment were included and combined with measures of social anxiety in both clinical and non-clinical populations to explore the nature of this relationship, both directly and through mediation/moderation by other variables. Thirty studies were identified and findings were synthesised narratively, meta-analysis being inappropriate due to variance between studies. Attachment was explored due to theoretical assertions that processes underlying social anxiety develop in attachment relationships (Vertue, 2003). Evolutionary psychological models of social anxiety also indicate a role for shame and social comparison as an overactive social rank system in social anxiety (Gilbert, 2000; 2001), and this was explored as a potential mediator of the relationship between attachment and social anxiety. The second chapter is an empirical study. Continuing the thesis from chapter one, the aims of the empirical study were to a) replicate findings that attachment would be associated with social anxiety, but when controlling for particular cognitive and evolutionary behavioural variables this association would lose significance and b) extend these findings through comparison of anxiety, shame and social comparison in the moment using experience-sampling methodology (ESM). As social anxiety is conceptualised as a continuum of severity and distress (Ruscio, 2010) this comparison was made within-subjects. It was hoped that observing variables in the moment would illuminate processes underlying social anxiety in different contextual settings and elucidate differences between social and non-social environments. Ultimately it was hoped that better understanding of variance in shame and social comparison in the moment could guide identification and prevention of pre-clinical experiences, as well as guide more targeted intervention based on understanding of underlying processes. Overall consideration of attachment as one potential root for these underlying processes could also be considered based on extant research. Appendices were limited by the accepted word count for this thesis, but include author guidance for the formatting of both chapters one and two, which are written to comply with the requirements of the Journal of Affective Disorders. The quality assessment tool used in chapter one is also included, as are methodological points used for chapter two. These include the person-level and ESM questionnaires, as well as the participant information sheet and advert. Following completion of this thesis, it is intended that findings from both studies will be disseminated to academic audiences through publication in peer-reviewed journals, as well as lay descriptive leaflets being emailed to participants who cited their interest in hearing results of the study.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Clinical Psychology)
Divisions: Faculty of Health and Life Sciences > Tech, Infrastructure and Environmental Directorate
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 20 Jan 2017 11:13
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2024 17:21
DOI: 10.17638/03003456
  • Taylor, PJ
  • Palmier-Claus, J
  • Dickson, J
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3003456