ISSN 2043-8087
Journal of Experimental Psychopathology
 Volume 7, Issue 4, 577-587, 2016
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The pernicious effects of post-event processing in social anxiety disorder

  Karen Rowa - St. Joseph's Healthcare and McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  Dubraka Gavric - St. Joseph's Healthcare and McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  Victoria Stead - St. Joseph's Healthcare, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  Joelle LeMoult - Stanford University, Hamilton, ON, Canada
  Randi McCabe - St. Joseph's Healthcare and McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada

Volume 7, Issue 4, 2016, Pages 577-587


Aims: Post-event processing (PEP) in social anxiety disorder (SAD) involves ruminating about social encounters after the fact.  There is a clear relationship between PEP and SAD, but less is known about the negative effects of PEP.  The goal of the current study was to investigate these negative effects in a sample of people with SAD.  We hypothesized that PEP would contribute to decreased willingness to try a similar task again and to increased anxiety about engaging in a similar task.  We also hypothesized that the degree of PEP would mediate the relationship between initial self-evaluation of performance and follow-up self-evaluation. 

Methods:  Forty-one individuals with a principal diagnosis of SAD completed the study.  Participants completed baseline measures of symptom severity and state affect and then completed an impromptu speech task.  After completing the speech, they completed a self-evaluation of their performance.  Five days later, they rated the degree to which they engaged in PEP about their speech performance, indicated their willingness and anxiety about completing a similar speech task in the future, and completed a second self-evaluation of their performance. 

Results: PEP contributed unique and significant variance to willingness (R2 change = .12, p < .05) but not to anxiety ratings (R2 change = .027, p = .13) once symptom severity, depressive symptoms, and state anxiety were controlled for.  Using bias-corrected bootstrapping, PEP mediated the relationship between initial and follow-up performance ratings. 

Conclusions:  The more people engage in PEP, the less willing they appear to be to re-enter difficult social situations, likely perpetuating a cycle of avoidance.  PEP also appears to be one factor that keeps negative self-perceptions “alive” after a challenging social situation.  The current study provides unique evidence of the negative consequences of PEP for individuals with SAD.  

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Correspondence to
Karen Rowa, Ph.D., Anxiety Treatment and Research Clinic, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, 100 West 5th Street, Hamilton, ON, Canada L8N 3K7.

social anxiety, post-event processing, self-evaluation

Received 1 Mar 2016; Revised 4 Jun 2016; Accepted 4 Jun 2016; In Press 26 Jun 2016

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