Mind
Social anxiety, positive events and momentary benefits

Social anxiety, positive events and momentary benefits

Some research shows that individuals with high social anxiety tend to experience very weak positive effects from everyday situations and sometimes report a low frequency of positive events throughout their life.

 

Individuals with high levels of social anxiety are subject to frequent and excessive fears related to social situations, to the point of avoiding interactions and any situation that could lead to exposure to any criticism from others (Rapee & Heimberg, 1997). Furthermore, there is increasing evidence that individuals with high social anxiety enjoy fewer positive post-treatment effects. Research, conducted with the diary technique and other retrospective methods, shows that individuals with high social anxiety tend to experience very weak positive effects and sometimes to report a low frequency of positive events throughout their life (Blanco & Joormann, 2017; Farmer & Kashdan, 2012; Geyer et al., 2018). Understanding how people with different levels of social anxiety respond to daily positive events is important: a recent study by Doorley, Goodman, Disabato and Kashdan (2020) investigated just that. The hypotheses have been the following: (1) the positive events of the last hours, evaluated as more intense by the participants (N = 125 young adults), will increase the momentary mood, the sense of belonging and social motivation (Rolls, 2018) ; (2) high social anxiety will be associated with lower average levels of happiness, a sense of belonging, motivation to the social approach and to the perception of the positive events of the last few hours as less intense. (1) the positive events of the last few hours, rated as more intense by the participants (N = 125 young adults), will increase momentary mood, a sense of belonging and social motivation (Rolls, 2018); (2) high social anxiety will be associated with lower average levels of happiness, a sense of belonging, motivation to the social approach and to the perception of the positive events of the last few hours as less intense. (1) the positive events of the last few hours, rated as more intense by the participants (N = 125 young adults), will increase momentary mood, a sense of belonging and social motivation (Rolls, 2018); (2) high social anxiety will be associated with lower average levels of happiness, a sense of belonging, motivation to the social approach and to the perception of the positive events of the last few hours as less intense.

First, the symptoms of social anxiety at the trait level were measured through the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS), whose items evaluate fear and the tendency to avoid social interactions by means of a 5 Likert scale points (from “it doesn’t characterize me at all” to “it characterizes me extremely”). Some examples of items include “I’m afraid to express myself because of the risk of appearing embarrassing” or “I feel tense if I’m alone with another person”. Secondly, momentary ecological assessment (EMA) was used to examine mood changes (happiness and anxiety), sense of belonging and social motivation (VS avoidance approach) in the participants’ daily lives. Happiness (cheerfulness, happiness, joy), anxiety (anxiety, nervousness, concern), sense of belonging (acceptance, connection), social approach / motivation to avoidance (wanting to be with other people or wanting to be alone) were rated on a scale from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very much). Participants also had to report the most positive events that occurred in the past few hours, and the most common were: watching TV, training, walking, taking a shower, seeing friends, relaxing and taking a nap. Finally, the participants then assessed the intensity of their most positive event in the last hour, using the same 5-point scale. they had to report the most positive events that occurred in the last few hours, and the most common were: watching TV, training, walking, taking a shower, seeing friends, relaxing and taking a nap. Finally, the participants then assessed the intensity of their most positive event in the last hour, using the same 5-point scale. they had to report the most positive events that occurred in the last few hours, and the most common were: watching TV, training, walking, taking a shower, seeing friends, relaxing and taking a nap. Finally, the participants then assessed the intensity of their most positive event in the last hour, using the same 5-point scale.

The results showed that experiencing positive events in the last few hours, assessed as more intense, is associated with: adaptive changes in momentary mood, with an increase in happiness and a decrease in anxiety, an increase in the sense of belonging and, finally, social motivation, with a consequent increase in the propensity to approach and a decrease in avoidance. Furthermore, high social anxiety implied a worsening of momentary mood, with a decrease in happiness and an increase in anxiety, a lower sense of belonging and a greater motivation to avoid society, however it was not associated with the intensity of momentary positive events ; finally, social anxiety amplified the associations between the intensity of positive events of the last hour and momentary anxiety, the sense of belonging and the motivation to avoid socialization. However, even though individuals with a high trait of social anxiety had on average higher levels of momentary anxiety, on average lower levels of a sense of belonging, and, finally, a greater social motivation for avoidance, the analyzes showed a significant reduction greater anxiety, a significant increase in the sense of belonging and a reduction in avoidance following very intense positive events. In conclusion, it is clear that positive events have a significant impact on the emotional life of young adults. In particular, the current results provide evidence to support that individuals with high social anxiety experience greater psychological benefits following intense positive events that have occurred in the past few hours: decreased anxiety, increased sense of belonging, decreased motivation to support avoidance. Thanks to these observations, it is possible to obtain detailed descriptions of the circumstances in which individuals with social anxiety and other emotional disorders can improve, creating potentially important objectives for the intervention.