We sought to investigate situation-specific inflated sense of responsibility and explanatory style in social anxiety disorder (SAD) according to the cognitive model. Participants aged 17–68 years (mean = 31.9, SD = 11.1) included waiting list patients referred to a primary care mental health service for cognitive behavioural therapy for SAD (n = 18) and non-anxious control participants (n = 65). A battery of psychometric measures, including a bespoke measure of responsibility beliefs, was used. Compared with controls, participants with SAD were more likely to demonstrate an inflated sense of responsibility (p ≤ 0.001), and to adopt a negative explanatory style specific to social interaction (p ≤ 0.01). Inflated sense of responsibility was found to correlate with SAD symptomatology (r = 0.47, p ≤ 0.05), and with increased usage of safety behaviours (r = 0.47, p ≤ 0.05). Caseness (β = 1.45, p ≤ 0.01) and stability of causal attribution (β = 0.25, p ≤ 0.001) were found to predict inflated responsibility in our sample. To our knowledge this study represents the first attempt to investigate inflated responsibility within the context of SAD. Our results support the notion of inflated responsibility as a feature of SAD.
Key learning aims
- (1)To understand the cognitive behavioural components of Clark and Wells’ model of SAD, and their bi-directional nature.
- (2)To understand what the term ‘inflated sense of responsibility’ refers to, and how it relates to CBT.
- (3)To understand what the term ‘explanatory style’ refers to, and how this concept can also relate to CBT.