Category: Adult Anxiety - Social
Background/Objective: Reassurance seeking (RS) has been shown to predict increases in social anxiety (Cougle et al., 2012) and contribute to reduced partner-rated interaction quality (Heerey & Kring, 2007). However, research examining RS in social anxiety and potential mediators of this association is limited. A candidate mediating variable is intolerance of uncertainty (IU), which is defined as the tendency to respond negatively to uncertainty and its perceived consequences (Dugas, Gagnon, Ladouceur, & Freeston, 1998). There is evidence that IU is elevated in individuals with social anxiety (Carleton, Collimore, & Asmundson, 2010) and RS has been described as a behavioral manifestation of IU (Dugas & Robichaud, 2007). Another potential mediating variable is fear of negative evaluation (FNE), a defining feature of social anxiety that is associated with various safety behaviors (Clark & Wells, 1995). The current study addressed an important gap in the literature by examining whether IU and FNE significantly mediate the association between social anxiety and RS.
Method: Sixty-one participants recruited from the community completed the study. Participants completed the following questionnaires: 1) Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN; Connor et al., 2000), a measure of fear, avoidance, and physiological symptoms associated with social anxiety, 2) Intolerance of Uncertainty Scale (IUS; Buhr & Dugas, 2002), a measure of IU, 3) Brief Fear of Negative Evaluation Scale (BFNE-S; Leary, 1983), a measure of FNE, 4) Depressive Interpersonal Relationships Inventory-Reassurance-Seeking Subscale (DIRI-RS; Joiner, Alfano, & Metalsky, 1992), a measure of RS centering on themes of worth and lovability, and 5) Reassurance Seeking Scale (RSS; Rector, Kamkar, Cassin, Ayeasrt, & Laposa, 2011), which assesses RS in the areas of decision-making, social attachment, and general threat.
Results: Higher levels of social anxiety significantly predicted more frequent RS about one’s worth and lovability (as measured by the DIRI), and in the areas of decision-making, social attachment, and general threat (as measured by the RSS). Increased social anxiety significantly predicted increased IU and FNE, and increased IU and FNE significantly predicted more frequent RS in all of the abovementioned domains. Lastly, both IU and FNE significantly mediated the association between social anxiety and each measure of RS.
Conclusions: The finding that IU and FNE significantly mediated the association between social anxiety and RS in each measured domain may have important clinical implications for treating social anxiety. Specifically, targeting IU and FNE in individuals with social anxiety may lead to reductions in RS, which may, in turn, reduce social anxiety.