Category: Adult Anxiety - Social

PS9- #A17 - Social Anxiety and Stress Generation: The Moderating Role of Interpersonal Distress

Saturday, Nov 18
9:45 AM – 10:45 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Social Anxiety | Stress

Although a number of personal characteristics have been found to contribute to the occurrence of stressful life events, relatively few studies have examined the role of social anxiety and related factors in stress generation. A growing body of research has found that social anxiety may be especially important to examine in the context of perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness, two forms of interpersonal distress originally described in the Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behavior. The combination of social anxiety and these forms of interpersonal distress has been shown to contribute to psychopathology, such as depression, as well as suicide-related outcomes. The current study extended prior research by examining the role of social anxiety in interpersonal stress generation and evaluated whether interpersonal distress moderated this association. Undergraduate students (N = 243) completed self-report measures of social anxiety, perceived burdensomeness, and thwarted belongingness, as well as a self-report measure and clinician-rated interview assessing negative and positive events that had occurred over the past six weeks. Higher levels ofsocial anxiety were associated with a higher occurrence of negative interpersonal dependent stressful life events (B = .03, = 2.87, p < .01), but not with fewer positive interpersonal dependent life events, after controlling for depressive symptoms. As hypothesized, levels of social anxiety were not related to the occurrence of non-interpersonal or independent stressful life events. Further, perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness moderated the association between social anxiety and stress generation, such that higher levels of social anxiety were associated with negative interpersonal dependent stressful life events more strongly among individuals who also reported higher levels of perceived burdensomeness (B = .00, SE = .00, = 3.40, p < .01) and thwarted belongingness (B = .00, SE = .00, = 2.13, p = .03). These findings highlight the pernicious interplay between social anxiety and interpersonal distress in stress generation and suggest that perceived burdensomeness and thwarted belongingness may be useful targets in treatments for social anxiety. Targeting these constructs may serve to ameliorate social anxiety, alleviate stressors, and prevent other negative mental health outcomes. 

David M. Siegel

Research Assistant
Temple University

Taylor A. Burke

Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology
Temple University

Jessica L. Hamilton

Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology
Temple University

Marilyn L. Piccirillo

Doctoral Student in Clinical Psychology
Washington University in St. Louis

Adela Scharff

Temple University

Lauren B. Alloy

Joseph Wolpe Distinguished Faculty in Psychology, Laura H. Carnell Professor of Psychology
Temple University
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania