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02-01-2021 | Original Article

Social Anxiety Disorder and the Fear of Death: An Empirical Investigation of the Terror Management Approach towards Understanding Clinical Anxiety

Auteurs: Matteo Zuccala, Maree J. Abbott

Gepubliceerd in: Cognitive Therapy and Research | Uitgave 4/2021

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Abstract

Background

Emerging evidence suggests that death anxiety is an important transdiagnostic construct underlying a range of psychological disorders. Terror Management Theory (TMT) is currently the preeminent theoretical framework used to explain the role that death fears play in psychopathology. This study sought to examine the TMT approach to understanding clinical anxiety while addressing several methodological limitations associated with the existing empirical literature.

Method

Semi-structured diagnostic interviewing was employed to recruit two groups of participants with either Social Anxiety Disorder or no anxiety diagnosis. All participants were randomly allocated to receive either mortality salience or control priming, before undertaking two tasks designed to measure social and physical anxiety symptoms, respectively.

Results

The overall pattern of results failed to provide evidence in support of the novel hypotheses derived from TMT. Mortality salience priming did not exacerbate social anxiety symptoms for participants with Social Anxiety Disorder, but did exacerbate physical anxiety symptoms for these individuals. No such effect was observed for non-clinical participants.

Conclusion

These results suggest that more robust theoretical frameworks may be needed to explain the evident, but likely complex, relationship between death fears and clinical anxiety. Directions for future research are discussed.
Voetnoten
1
Exceptions were made for participants diagnosed with a Specific Phobia unrelated to social or physical threat, such as a Specific Phobia of frogs, and no other anxiety diagnoses (n = 4). One-way ANOVAs confirmed that participants in the NAD group with Specific Phobia did not significantly differ from those without the diagnosis on baseline anxiety measures.
 
2
The SUDs was the only outcome measure directly comparable across tasks. A three-way repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was conducted comparing the SUDs across participant groups, priming conditions, and tasks for both pre- and post-task outcomes. The three-way interaction effects were not significant.
 
3
All main analyses were repeated with task order as a covariate and the patterns of significance remained unchanged. Further details available from authors on request.
 
4
One-way ANOVAs confirmed that there were no significant differences on baseline social anxiety measures for participants in the SAD group according to whether SAD was the principal or secondary diagnosis.
 
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Metagegevens
Titel
Social Anxiety Disorder and the Fear of Death: An Empirical Investigation of the Terror Management Approach towards Understanding Clinical Anxiety
Auteurs
Matteo Zuccala
Maree J. Abbott
Publicatiedatum
02-01-2021
Uitgeverij
Springer US
Gepubliceerd in
Cognitive Therapy and Research / Uitgave 4/2021
Print ISSN: 0147-5916
Elektronisch ISSN: 1573-2819
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s10608-020-10187-0

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