Negative and Positive Automatic thoughts in Social Anxiety Disorder

Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2015;52(2):129-35.


Background: Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by fear and avoidance in social situations where one is exposed to scrutiny by others. It is possible that automatic thoughts either cause the disorder or maintain it, and thus their examination is warranted.

Method: 30 SAD subjects diagnosed with the MiniInternational Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) and 30 healthy controls were administered the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS), the Automatic Thoughts Questionnaires (ATQ-Negative and ATQ-Positive), the Sheehan Disability Scale (SDS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). It was hypothesized that the SAD subjects would display more depression and disability, more negative automatic thoughts and fewer positive automatic thoughts than the healthy controls, and that the automatic thoughts will predict the severity of SAD.

Results: SAD patients had higher scores of depression and disability, higher scores on the ATQ-Negative questionnaire and lower scores on the ATQ-Positive questionnaire. The scores of the LSAS subscales were predicted by the scores of the ATQ-Positive and the BDI questionnaires.

Limitations: Moderate sample size and limits of the questionnaires used in the study.

Conclusions: Automatic thoughts may be an important area of research with larger samples. Further studies should be carried out in order to examine if strengthening positive thinking and ablation of negative thinking can reduce SAD symptoms during cognitive behavioral treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phobia, Social / physiopathology*
  • Thinking / physiology*