Emotion beliefs and cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder

Cogn Behav Ther. 2015;44(2):128-41. doi: 10.1080/16506073.2014.974665. Epub 2014 Nov 7.


Despite strong support for the efficacy of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for social anxiety disorder (SAD), little is known about mechanisms of change in treatment. Within the context of a randomized controlled trial of CBT, this study examined patients' beliefs about the fixed versus malleable nature of anxiety-their 'implicit theories'-as a key variable in CBT for SAD. Compared to waitlist (n = 29; 58% female), CBT (n = 24; 52% female) led to significantly lower levels of fixed beliefs about anxiety (Mbaseline = 11.70 vs. MPost = 7.08, d = 1.27). These implicit beliefs indirectly explained CBT-related changes in social anxiety symptoms (κ(2) = .28, [95% CI = 0.12, 0.46]). Implicit beliefs also uniquely predicted treatment outcomes when controlling for baseline social anxiety and other kinds of maladaptive beliefs (perceived social costs, perceived social self-efficacy, and maladaptive interpersonal beliefs). Finally, implicit beliefs continued to predict social anxiety symptoms at 12 months post-treatment. These findings suggest that changes in patients' beliefs about their emotions may play an important role in CBT for SAD.

Keywords: CBT; beliefs; emotion; implicit theories; social anxiety.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology*
  • Anxiety Disorders / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy*
  • Emotions*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Phobic Disorders / therapy*
  • Thinking
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult