Social desirability and self-reports of alcohol abuse in anxiety disorder patients
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Previous research has shown there is significant comorbidity between alcohol abuse and anxiety disorders. However, the prevalence of anxiety disorders in alcoholic samples has been found to be higher than the occurrence of alcohol abuse in anxiety disorder samples. One possibility for this apparent discrepancy involves a social desirability response bias where it may be less socially acceptable to report alcoholism than to report an anxiety disorder. Thus, a high need for social approval may be associated with minimizing alcohol abuse. The relationship between standardized self-reports of alcohol abuse and social desirability was assessed in 51 panic disorder (PD) and 33 social phobia (SP) patients. In male PD patients there was a negative correlation (-0.46) between social desirability and self-reports of alcohol abuse that approached statistical significance, and the prevalence of alcohol abuse was 18%. In male SP patients there was no such inverse relation and the prevalence of alcohol abuse was much higher (47%). In female anxiety disorder patients these patterns were not evident. These results suggest that when there is a strong (negative) relationship between self-reports of alcoholism and social desirability, the alcohol use may be minimized. In general, however, this relationship was not pronounced in most anxiety disorder patients.
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