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Description: There are indications that the number of young adults dealing with high levels of anxiety or worrying about their current levels of stress and anxiety have jumped up quite a bit in recent years (see Reference Section below). In this and a related post to follow shortly I am going to look at a couple of research questions regarding anxiety and coping with anxiety I particular. I will likely return to this area again soon as it is an important one in relation to the life experiences, satisfaction and adjustment of emerging adults (18 to 25 or 29 years old’s). This post looks at an article discussing a study into social anxiety, or at the anxiety that many people feel as they approach a social event, situation, or performance that they are anxious about. The question that drove the study may seem like a simple one – Why do some people’s anxiety levels seem to ramp up dramatically as the event approaches? And more importantly, what sorts of things might they be doing, or not doing that either contribute to this ramping up of social anxiety or that, at least, do not seem to be helpful in reducing it? Think about a social event that you were or are anxious about and think about the sorts of things you do as it approaches. What do you think about? What do you think about your feelings of anxiety and what sorts of things (if any) do you do to try and manage your feeling of (blossoming) anxiety? Once you have your thoughts in order read through the article linked below and see what the researchers looked at and what they found (and how they designed their study).

Source: The Latest Way to Conquer Social Anxiety Uses a New Mindset, Susan Krause Whitbourne, Fulfillment at Any Age, Psychology Today.

Date: October 20, 2018

Photo Credit: VectorStock

Article Link:

So, did you see the finding about negative rumination coming? As the author of the article linked above points out, research has shown that cognitive behavior therapy can be quite helpful in dealing with social anxiety issues, but it has not been clear what aspects of CBT actually provides the beneficial effects. Relatedly, it is interesting that going over and over what might go wrong at the social event is actually NOT a good strategy for ensuring bad things do not happen but is, rather, negative rumination that tends to escalate rather than reduce social anxiety. What the research suggests is that trying and practicing detached mindfulness – noticing yourself starting to ruminate about an upcoming event and telling yourself to stop or to now think about it seems to be quite helpful. It is important also to think a bit about the design of the study — using undergraduate students who did not actually have anxiety disorder issues – and think about ways in which we should be cautious about how widely we apply the results and about what research we still need to do in this area. The research is, most certainly, a promising start not only in helping those with social anxiety issues but also clarifying our understanding of how social anxieties emerge and propagate in peoples’ lives.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is social anxiety and in what sorts of situations does it arise?
  2. What sorts of things do people with social anxiety issues do in the time leading up to a social event (the anticipation of which) that is causing then anxiety to amplify or reduce their feeling of anxiety?
  3. What is detached mindfulness and what specifically would you do to use a version of it if you had a social event coming up that was starting to make you feel quite anxious?

References (Read Further):

Twenge, J. M. (2000). The age of anxiety? The birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952–1993. Journal of personality and social psychology, 79(6), 1007.

Goldin, P. R., & Gross, J. J. (2010). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on emotion regulation in social anxiety disorder. Emotion, 10(1), 83.

Nepon, T., Flett, G. L., Hewitt, P. L., & Molnar, D. S. (2011). Perfectionism, negative social feedback, and interpersonal rumination in depression and social anxiety. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 43(4), 297.

Brozovich, F. A., Goldin, P., Lee, I., Jazaieri, H., Heimberg, R. G., & Gross, J. J. (2015). The effect of rumination and reappraisal on social anxiety symptoms during cognitive‐behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71(3), 208-218.

Modini, M., & Abbott, M. J. (2018). Banning pre-event rumination in social anxiety: A preliminary randomized trial. Journal of behavior therapy and experimental psychiatry, 61, 72-79.