Recent models of social anxiety disorder emphasise the role of emotion dysregulation; however, the nature of the proposed impairment needs clarification. In a replication and extension framework, four studies (N = 193) examined whether individuals with social anxiety (HSAs) are impaired in using cognitive reappraisal and expressive suppression. Self-reports and lab-based tasks of suppression and reappraisal were utilised among individuals with high and low levels of social anxiety. A meta-analysis of these studies indicated that, compared to controls, HSAs reported less frequent and effective use of reappraisal and more frequent and effective use of suppression. Counter to most models and our hypotheses, HSAs were more successful than controls in lab-based reappraisal of shame-arousing pictures as measured by subjective ratings, but not by event-related potentials. HSAs were less successful than controls in lab-based suppression of shame-arousing pictures as measured by subjective ratings, but not by event-related potentials. The results held even when participants were under social stress (impromptu speech anticipation). Overall, subjective reports of HSAs reveal strong deficits in emotion regulation whereas lab-based measures provided less conclusive evidence of such deficits. These results suggest that individuals with social anxiety experience difficulties implementing their reappraisal abilities in daily life.
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- Social anxiety
- cognitive reappraisal
- emotion regulation
- expressive suppression