A False Sense of Security: Safety Behaviors Erode Objective Speech Performance in Individuals With Social Anxiety Disorder
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In the current study, 55 participants with a diagnosis of generalized social anxiety disorder (SAD), 23 participants with a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder other than SAD with no comorbid SAD, and 50 healthy controls completed a speech task as well as self-reported measures of safety behavior use. Speeches were videotaped and coded for global and specific indicators of performance by two raters who were blind to participants' diagnostic status. Results suggested that the objective performance of people with SAD was poorer than that of both control groups, who did not differ from each other. Moreover, self-reported use of safety behaviors during the speech strongly mediated the relationship between diagnostic group and observers' performance ratings. These results are consistent with contemporary cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal models of SAD and suggest that socially anxious individuals' performance skills may be undermined by the use of safety behaviors. These data provide further support for recommendations from previous studies that the elimination of safety behaviors ought to be a priority in cognitive behavioral therapy for SAD.
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