Psychological Factors

Research has indicated the role of 'core' or 'unconditional' negative beliefs (e.g. I am inept) and 'conditional' beliefs nearer to the surface (e.g. If I show myself, I will be rejected). They are thought to develop based on personality and adverse experiences and to be activated when the person feels under threat. One line of work has focused more specifically on the key role of self-presentational concerns. The resulting anxiety states are seen as interfering with social performance and the ability to concentrate on interaction, which in turn creates more social problems, which strengthens the negative schema. Also highlighted has been a high focus on and worry about anxiety symptoms themselves and how they might appear to others. A similar model emphasizes the development of a distorted mental representation of their self and over-estimates of the likelihood and consequences of negative evaluation, and of the performance standards that others have. Such cognitive-behavioral models consider the role of negatively-biased memories of the past and the processes of rumination after an event, and fearful anticipation before it. Studies have also highlighted the role of subtle avoidance and defensive factors, and shown how attempts to avoid feared negative evaluations or use 'safety behaviors' can make social interaction more difficult and the anxiety worse in the long run. This work has been influential in the development of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for social anxiety disorder, which has been shown to have efficacy.