Daily Stress Reactivity in Social Anxiety Disorder: a Temporal Process Approach

Antonina Farmer

Major Professor: Todd B. Kashdan, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Patrick McKnight, Anastasia Kitsantas

Buchanan Hall (formerly Mason Hall), #D009D
March 05, 2014, 09:30 AM to 06:30 AM

Abstract:

Dominant theoretical models of social anxiety disorder (SAD) suggest that people who suffer from function-impairing social fears are likely to react more strongly to interpersonal stressors. Researchers have examined the reactivity of people with SAD to stressful laboratory tasks, but there is little knowledge about how stress affects their daily lives. We asked 79 adults from the community, 40 of whom were diagnosed with SAD (based on structured clinical interviews) and 39 matched healthy controls, to self-monitor their social interactions, positive and negative social events, and emotional experiences over two weeks using electronic diaries. These data allowed us to examine associations of interpersonal events and emotional well-being both within-day and from one day to the next. Using hierarchical linear modeling, we found all participants to have significant within-day reactivity to social stressors, i.e., they reported increases in negative affect and decreases in positive affect and self-esteem on days when they experienced more stressful interpersonal events. However, people with SAD displayed greater reactivity of their negative emotions compared to healthy controls. Additionally, the groups differed in how previous days' events influenced well-being. The results did not suggest that people with SAD experience more interpersonal stress on days following more intense negative emotions. Overall, the findings support the role of elevated reactivity to interpersonal stress in SAD. These findings shed light on theoretical models of emotions and self-esteem in SAD and present important clinical implications.