Direct and indirect predictors of social anxiety: The role of anxiety sensitivity, behavioral inhibition, experiential avoidance and self-consciousness
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Using mediated and moderated regression, this study examined the hypothesis that anxiety sensitivity, the tendency to be concerned about anxiety symptoms, and behavioral inhibition, the tendency to withdraw from novel and potentially dangerous stimuli, predict social anxiety indirectly through experiential avoidance as measured by the Acceptance and Action Questionnaire-II and self-consciousness, as measured by the Self-Consciousness Scale. Behavioral inhibition and anxiety sensitivity are operationalized as temperamental traits, while experiential avoidance and self-consciousness are seen as learned emotion regulation strategies. Study 1 included college student groups from Cyprus scoring high and low on social anxiety (N = 64 and N = 63) as measured by the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory. Study 2 examined a random community sample aged 18-65 (N = 324) treating variables as continuous and using the Psychiatric Disorders Screening Questionnaire to screen for social anxiety. Results suggest that experiential avoidance, but not self-consciousness mediates the effects of anxiety sensitivity on predicting social anxiety status, but that behavioral inhibition predicts social anxiety directly and not through the proposed mediators. Moderation effects were not supported. Overall, the study finds that social anxiety symptomatology is predicted not only by behavioral inhibition, but also anxiety sensitivity, when individuals take actions to avoid anxious experiences. Modifying such avoidant coping approaches may be more beneficial for psychological treatments than attempts to change long-standing, temperamental personality traits. © 2014 Elsevier Inc.