Category: Adult Anxiety

PS15- #B45 - Excessive Reassurance Seeking, Optimism, and Self-Regulation Predict Anxiety

Sunday, Nov 19
9:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Location: Indigo Ballroom CDGH, Level 2, Indigo Level

Keywords: Anxiety | Coping

Self-regulation is the ability to monitor, evaluate, and reinforce one’s own behaviors and thoughts to achieve their goals (Mackenzie, Mezo, & Francis, 2012). A potentially similar adaptive mechanism, optimism, enables individuals to maintain a positive view of the world as they pursue their goals (Carver, Scheier, & Segerstrom, 2010). Self-regulation strategies and optimism are known to predict anxiety (Beesdo-Baum et al., 2012; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994). Those with anxiety are also known to engage in excessive reassurance seeking (ERS), a behavior aimed to alleviate feelings of worthlessness and guilt (Coyne, 1976; Kobori & Salkovskis, 2012). Thus, ERS may be one behavior that falls under the umbrellas of self-regulation and optimism. First, we hypothesize that self-regulation and optimism will share a strong relationship to ERS behavior. In addition, we expect those who utilize maladaptive self-regulation strategies and a pessimistic worldview will experience higher levels of anxiety.


Participants were 698 undergraduate students who completed surveys of self-regulation (SCMS; Mezo, 2009), reassurance seeking (DIRI-RS; Coyne, 1976), optimism and pessimism (LOT-R; Scheier, Carver, & Bridges, 1994), and anxiety (STAI; Spielberger, 1983). Participants were primarily women (72%; Mage = 19.58, SD = 3.45).


In partial support of our first hypothesis, self-regulation achieved a significant relationship with optimism (r = .35, p < .001) and pessimism (r = -.21, p < .001). As expected, self-regulation and optimism had a significant relationship to anxiety (r = -.34, -.55, respectively, both ps< .001). Furthermore, ERS and pessimism were significantly related to anxiety (r = .43, .52, respectively, both ps< .001). A multiple regression was run to predict trait anxiety from ERS, self-regulation, optimism, and pessimism simultaneously. ERS, self-regulation, optimism, and pessimism significantly predicted anxiety (F(4, 691) = 169.03, p < .001). As hypothesized, self-regulation and optimism were negatively associated with anxiety (B = -.15, t = -5.49; B = -1.32, t = 10.01; both ps < .001). In contrast, reassurance seeking and pessimism were positively associated with anxiety (B = .55, t = 10.76; B = .99, t = 8.35, both ps < .001).


Results of this study are consistent with prior research in that self-regulation, optimism, and reassurance seeking predicted anxiety. Contrary to predictions, reassurance-seeking behavior may be orthogonal to self-regulation rather than a type of self-regulation strategy. Finally, reassurance seeking behavior and pessimism together may be viable treatment targets in cognitive-behavioral therapy for anxiety. These implications call for future studies to delineate the self-regulatory strategies one utilizes in periods of anxiety.

Kelsey J. Pritchard

Graduate Research Assistant
University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio

Peter G. Mezo

Assistant Professor
University of Toledo
Toledo, Ohio