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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The relationship between safety-seeking, self-authenticity, self-esteem, and relatedness in social anxiety Plasencia, Melissa Leili


Cognitive models of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) emphasize the role of safety behaviours in maintaining the negative sense of self hypothesized to be at the core of SAD. The social psychology literature contains theories regarding the self that might enrich clinical cognitive models by addressing the interplay between aspects of self and social functioning. The first theory pertains to authenticity: being able to engage in self-congruent behaviours is associated with better social functioning and self-esteem. The second pertains to the contribution of social belonging to self-esteem. My goal in this dissertation was to examine the links between safety-seeking, authenticity, relatedness, and self-esteem suggested by an integration of these theories. In Study 1, individuals seeking treatment for SAD participated in an experiment designed to manipulate use of safety behaviours in laboratory-based social interactions (N = 93). Consistent with study predictions, reduction in safety behaviours was related to increase in self-authenticity. Additionally, increased authenticity mediated the relationship between condition and enhanced interpersonal functioning (i.e., prosocial behaviour and perceived partner reaction). In Study 2, structural equation modeling was used to evaluate two potential models of the interrelationships between safety behaviours, authenticity, relatedness, and self-esteem in a nonclinical sample (N = 279): (a) a “self-protection model,” based on the hypothesis that less reliance on safety behaviours would be linked to greater self-authenticity, which, in turn, would be linked to stronger relatedness and self-esteem, or (b) a “relatedness model” in which relatedness was hypothesized to be linked to higher self-esteem, which was linked to less safety-seeking behaviour and, thereby, greater authenticity. Results found preliminary support for both models. Study 3 extended the investigation to a clinical sample (N = 49) to examine temporal relationship between these variables during the course of interpersonal cognitive-behavioural treatment (ICBT) for SAD. Multilevel mediational modeling was used to test whether change in mediators predicted subsequent change in outcome variables. Greater support was found for the “relatedness” model from Study 2. Implications of the present findings for understanding the role of safety behaviours in maintaining the negative self-system and how clinical and social models might be usefully integrated are discussed.

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