Social anxiety and its psychosocial impact on the lives of people with epilepsy
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Little is known about social anxiety among people with epilepsy (PWE), although PWE are more likely to be diagnosed with social anxiety disorder than the general population. The purpose of this study was to determine which psychosocial and seizure-related variables are associated with social anxiety. It was hypothesized that social anxiety would be positively correlated with perceived seizure severity, stigma, impact of epilepsy, fear of negative evaluation, and experiential avoidance. Further, social anxiety would be negatively correlated with epilepsy knowledge and disclosure of epilepsy. Finally, if a seizure occurred in public and others were unaware of the epilepsy, participants would report greater judgment, anxiety, and rumination compared with those in a situation where others were aware of the epilepsy. A total of 101 individuals with epilepsy participated in this online study. Social anxiety was found to correlate with both psychosocial and seizure-related variables in the expected directions. Further, social anxiety predicted significant variance in stigma and disclosure beyond known predictors of stigma. Participants in both conditions (disclosed diagnosis of epilepsy versus undisclosed diagnosis of epilepsy) were equally distressed by having a seizure in public. These findings provide an initial basis for discerning how to best assess and support PWE with social anxiety.
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