Excessive reassurance seeking and anxiety pathology: tests of incremental associations and directionality

J Anxiety Disord. 2012 Jan;26(1):117-25. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.10.001. Epub 2011 Oct 7.


Excessive reassurance-seeking (ERS) is hypothesized to play a key role in emotional disorders but has been studied mostly in relation to depression. Study 1 reports a new measure of reassurance seeking that assessed ERS related to general and evaluative threats in a non-clinical student sample, and its factor structure was further examined in Study 2. In Study 3, the scale, along with other symptom-related measures and an existing measure of depressive ERS, was administered to an undergraduate sample at two different time points, one month apart. Greater ERS was associated with greater symptoms of social anxiety, generalized anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), even after controlling for trait anxiety, depression, and intolerance of uncertainty. Among OCD symptoms, only thoughts of harm were uniquely related to ERS, a finding consistent with emerging literature. ERS involving general threats also predicted changes in social anxiety and GAD symptoms one month later. Overall, the findings implicate an important role for ERS across anxiety disorders.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety / psychology
  • Anxiety Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / psychology
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Psychometrics
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Students
  • Uncertainty