The darker side of social anxiety: When aggressive impulsivity prevails over shy inhibition

  • Kashdan T
  • McKnight P
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The majority of definitions, research studies, and treatment programs that focus on social anxiety characterize the prototypical person with the disorder as shy, submissive, inhibited, and risk averse. This stereotype, however, has been challenged recently. Specifically, a subset of people with social anxiety who are aggressive, impulsive novelty seekers deviate from that prototype. People with this atypical profile show greater functional impairment and are less likely to complete or fare well in treatment compared with inhibited socially anxious people. The difference between these two groups of people with social anxiety cannot be explained by the severity, type, or number of social fears, nor by co-occurring anxiety and mood disorders. Conclusions about the nature, course, and treatment of social anxiety may be compromised by not attending to diverse behaviors and self-regulatory styles. These concerns may be compounded in neurobiological and clinical studies of people with social anxiety problems that rely on smaller samples to make claims about brain patterns and the efficacy of particular treatments.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Aggression
  • Classification
  • Impulsivity
  • Self-regulation
  • Social phobia

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  • Todd B. Kashdan

  • Patrick E. McKnight

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