Mental control and social phobia

Patrick Kingsep

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Individuals with social phobia avoid social situations due to their high levels of fear of negative evaluation. Less obviously, they use mental control strategies attempting to keep intrusive thoughts about negative evaluation at bay. This dissertation reports on four studies. The first study examined mental control strategies used by individuals with social phobia in comparison to a control group. It investigated the relationship between mental control strategies and social anxiety symptoms, as well as depression, quality of life, and other indications of mental control. Among the positive associations between measures of fear of negative evaluation and mental control strategies, distraction was more frequently used by individuals with social phobia than other assessed for strategies. The second study involved a Cognitive Behavioural Group Treatment (CBGT) program and examined the changes after treatment in the relationships between social anxiety, mental control strategies, depression, and metacognitions. It found that the uncontrollability/danger metacognition subscale was the only metacognition which shared a relationship with fear of negative evaluation. Furthermore, following CBGT, individuals with social phobia increased their use of social control and reappraisal and demonstrated reductions for punishment and worry mental control strategies; although distraction did not change. For the third and fourth studies, an online thought suppression paradigm was used to measure automatic and strategic processes occurring during attempted suppression of social threat stimuli. Study Three examined the effects of suppressing negative social trait stimuli with a healthy control group, while Study Four compared individuals with social phobia to a control group using the same stimuli as Study Three. These last two studies found that during ‘attempted’ suppression of social threat stimuli, individuals with no psychiatric diagnosis evidenced no suppression of social threat. Yet for individuals with social phobia, at an automatic level of processing,
there was indication of vigilance for social threat stimuli. However, during strategic processing ‘successful’ suppression of social threat stimuli occurred. The findings of these four studies are discussed in relation to models of social phobia, treatment implications and the mechanisms and processes associated with mental control.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2013


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