Support from social networks is generally considered to protect against mental disorder but in some circumstances support for negative behaviours (such as avoidance) may be counterproductive. Given the critical interplay between social anxiety disorder and social interactions, it is surprising that the relationship of support from significant others to this disorder has received so little attention. The current study evaluated the reciprocal relationships between perceived social support and perceived partner support for avoidance behaviours (avoidance support) among a sample of 131 participants with social anxiety disorder who were assessed three times within the context of a treatment outcome study. A new measure of partner support for avoidance behaviours was developed, called the Avoidance Support Measure, and showed adequate internal consistency and construct validity. Correlations at baseline showed significant negative relationships between perceived social support and social anxiety and significant positive relationships between avoidance support and social anxiety. Path analysis showed that perceived social support at Times 1 and 2 negatively predicted future social anxiety at Times 2 and 3. On the other hand, only a single predictive relationship involving avoidance support was significant and showed that social anxiety at Time 1 positively predicted avoidance support at Time 2. These early results point to the different ways that support from significant others might relate to social anxiety and suggest that further work in this area may be fruitful.
- social anxiety disorder
- social support