Background: This study sought to extend findings from a preliminary clinical investigation [J. Affect. Disord. 57 (2000) 223] by examining relations between the personality dimension of self-criticism and diagnostic prevalence of social phobia in a large nationally representative sample.
Methods: Participants were from the national comorbidity survey Part II [n=5877; Arch. Gen. Psychiatry 51 (1994) 8]. Psychiatric diagnoses were made using a modified version of the composite international psychiatric interview. Personality dimensions and distress were assessed using brief self-report measures with strong psychometric properties.
Results: Self-criticism was elevated in NCS respondents with a diagnosis of social phobia, even in cases of only past history of social phobia (i.e. >1 year ago), compared to individuals with no psychiatric disorder. The highest levels of self-criticism were reported by people with the complex subtype of social phobia, both with and without comorbid major depression. These levels were significantly greater compared to those observed in another anxiety disorder (panic disorder), the pure speaking subtype of social phobia, and cases of major depression alone. In a regression analysis that controlled for current emotional distress, the broad personality trait of neuroticism, and lifetime histories of mood, anxiety, and substance use disorders, self-criticism remained significantly associated with lifetime prevalence of social phobia.
Limitations: The cross-sectional design of the study does not permit causal inferences.
Conclusions: Findings from this general population mental health survey demonstrated that self-criticism is robustly associated with social phobia. It may represent an important core psychological process in the complex subtype of this anxiety disorder.