DOES NEGATIVE SELF-IMAGERY PLAY A CAUSAL ROLE IN SOCIAL PHOBIA AMONG ADOLESCENTS?
Alfano, Candice Ann
Beidel, Deborah C
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The current study was designed to examine whether negative self-imagery is a significant factor in the development of social phobia among adolescents. Although some adult models of social phobia posit that negative self-imagery serves to increase anxiety and decrease performance within social contexts, few studies have directly examined this relationship and no study has examined self-imagery among socially-phobic adolescents. For the current study, negative self-imagery was manipulated among a group of non-anxious adolescents (IMAG) during two social tasks. Levels of anxiety, specific thoughts, expected and self-rated performance, and observer-rated performance and social skill were compared to both socially-phobic and control adolescents. Results revealed few differences in terms of observer-rated performance and specific social skill between the IMAG and control groups of adolescents, although the socially-phobic group was consistently rated to exhibit poorer performances and decreased social skill. The IMAG group reported marginally significant increases in their anxiety levels during both social tasks. Interestingly, these adolescents reported similar (increased) rates of anxiety during an additional social interaction task where they were instructed to use positive self-imagery. The IMAG group also reported decreases in performance compared to the control group. This finding appears to be explained primarily based on the adolescents' belief that they were unable to hide their anxiety rather than a decrease in social skill (such as reported by socially-phobic youth). Further, the IMAG group reported an overall fewer number of cognitions than both groups during the social interaction task, potentially indicating a significant decrease in cognitive resources based on the use of self-imagery. Overall findings from this investigation do not support the hypothesis that negative self-imagery plays a causal role in the development of social phobia among adolescents. Rather, results indicate that excessive self-focused attention within social contexts, together with normal developmental increases in self-consciousness during the adolescent years may pose a specific risk for development of the syndrome. These findings provide a developmental understanding of the factors involved in the onset of social phobia, as well as those symptoms that may be germane to the maintenance of the disorder over time.