Social rank and affiliation in social anxiety disorder

Behav Res Ther. 2011 Jun;49(6-7):399-405. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2011.03.010. Epub 2011 Apr 5.


The present study examined the interpersonal lives of individuals with social anxiety disorder (SAD). According to evolutionary and interpersonal theories, we construed the interpersonal world using the social rank and the affiliation psychological systems. Two studies assessed measures of social rank, affiliation, social anxiety and depression among a population of treatment-seeking individuals with SAD. In study 1, individuals with SAD without major depressive disorder (MDD; n=42) were compared to healthy controls (n=47). In study 2, individuals with SAD and MDD (n=45) were compared to individuals with other anxiety disorders and MDD (n=31). Results indicated that SAD was related to perceiving oneself as having low social rank, being inferior, and behaving submissively, as well as to low perceived intimacy and closeness among peer relations, friendships and romantic relations. SAD was distinctly associated with these perceptions above and beyond the symptomatic (study 1) and the syndrome-level (study 2) effects of depression. These findings were further supported by a path analysis of the SAD participants from both studies. Our findings highlight the need to address both social rank and affiliation issues in the assessment and treatment of SAD.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Social Dominance*