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18-04-2020 | Original Article | Uitgave 4/2020

Cognitive Therapy and Research 4/2020

The Fear of Losing Control in Social Anxiety: An Experimental Approach

Cognitive Therapy and Research > Uitgave 4/2020
Kenneth Kelly-Turner, Adam S. Radomsky
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Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is often conceptualized as arising from maladaptive cognitions. One cognitive domain that has received relatively little attention, despite endorsement from people struggling with social anxiety, is the belief that they may lose control over their speech/behaviour and/or their physical symptoms of anxiety. The present study aimed to evaluate the causal role of these beliefs on social anxiety symptoms in an analogue sample.


Beliefs were manipulated using false feedback in undergraduate psychology students (N = 130) to induce either high or low levels of beliefs about losing control. Participants then engaged in a social interaction task with a confederate.


The high beliefs about losing control (HLC) condition reported greater anxiety just before meeting the confederate than the low loss of control (LLC) condition. Further, HLC participants reported worse social performance and greater perceived failures of control than did those in the LLC condition during their interaction with a confederate.


Results suggest beliefs about losing control are producing cognitive and behavioural changes which may in part explain differences in performance in social interactions. Beliefs about losing control appear to be relevant to the cognitive model of social anxiety. Future studies should consider whether these beliefs are malleable among individuals with SAD.

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