Self-representation in social anxiety disorder: Linguistic analysis of autobiographical narratives

Barrett Anderson, Philip R Goldin, Keiko Kurita, James J. Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Cognitive models of social anxiety disorder (SAD) posit aberrant beliefs about the social self as a key psychological mechanism that maintains fear of negative evaluation in social and performance situations. Consequently, a distorted self-view should be evident when recalling painful autobiographical social memories, as reflected in linguistic expression, negative self-beliefs, and emotion and avoidance. To test this hypothesis, 42 adults diagnosed with SAD and 27 non-psychiatric healthy controls (HC) composed autobiographical narratives of distinct social anxiety related situations, generated negative self-beliefs (NSB), and provided emotion and avoidance ratings. Although narratives were matched for initial emotional intensity and present vividness, linguistic analyses demonstrated that, compared to HC, SAD employed more self-referential, anxiety, and sensory words, and made fewer references to other people. There were no differences in the number of self-referential NSB identified by SAD and HC. Social anxiety symptom severity, however, was associated with greater self-referential NSB in SAD only. SAD reported greater current self-conscious emotions when recalling autobiographical social situations, and greater active avoidance of similar situations than did HC. These findings support cognitive models of SAD, and suggest that autobiographical memory of social situations in SAD may influence current and future thinking, emotion, and behavioral avoidance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1119-1125
Number of pages7
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Autobiographical memory
  • Self-concept
  • Social phobia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology


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