Investigation of Social Anxiety Prevalence and Anxiety Sensitivity among College Students
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Social anxiety is a prominent problem in the college student population, with most college students reporting anxiety in social situations at some time or another (Purdon, Antony, Monteiro, & Swinson, 1999). Anxiety sensitivity, the fear of anxiety-relatedsymptoms and sensations, is elevated in individuals with anxiety disorders, including social anxiety disorder (Taylor, Koch, & Crockett, 1991). However, it is not clear which anxiety sensitivity components contribute to social anxiety. Furthermore, the nature and prevalence of social anxiety disorder in the college student population is largely unexamined. Study 1 examined archival data collected from 434 undergraduates. The Social Phobia Diagnostic Questionnaire (SPDQ; Newman, Kachin, Zuellig, Constantino,& Cashman, 2003) and the Anxiety Sensitivity Index (ASI; Reiss et al., 1986) were administered to this unselected college student sample. Study 2 aimed to replicate and extend Study 1 by administering the SPDQ as well as the Revised Anxiety SensitivityIndex (ASI-R; Taylor & Cox, 1998) and additional social anxiety related measures to a different unselected college student sample (N = 400). It was predicted that social anxiety disorder would be just as prevalent in college students as reported in the generalpopulation and that college students meeting diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder would show elevated levels of anxiety sensitivity compared to those who did not meet criteria for the disorder. Finally, it was predicted that students with social anxietydisorder would show elevations on the social and physical concerns ASI and ASI-R subscales and that ASI-R scores would predict social anxiety symptom severity after controlling for trait anxiety, depression, and fear of negative evaluation in a set wisehierarchical multiple linear regression analysis. The results partially supported these hypotheses. Social anxiety disorder was nearly as prevalent in the college student population as in the general population. The students who met criteria for the disorderscored significantly higher than students without social anxiety disorder on all measures, including rates of fear of public speaking, anxiety sensitivity (ASI and ASI-R total scores and subscales), trait anxiety, fear of negative evaluation, social anxiety symptom severity,and depression. The ASI-R added very little to the predictability of social anxiety symptom severity after controlling for trait anxiety, fear of negative evaluation, and depression. Implications of study findings and directions for future research are discussed.