Social anxiety and suicidal ideation: Test of the utility of the interpersonal-psychological theory of suicide

J Anxiety Disord. 2017 Jan:45:60-63. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2016.11.010. Epub 2016 Dec 2.

Abstract

Social anxiety is related to greater suicidality, even after controlling for depression and other psychopathology. The Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicide (IPTS; Joiner, 2005) proposes that people are vulnerable to wanting to die by suicide if they experience both perceived burdensomeness (sense that one is a burden to others) and thwarted belongingness (a greater sense of alienation from others). Socially anxious persons may be especially vulnerable to these interpersonal factors. The current study tested whether interpersonal IPTS components independently and additively mediate the social anxiety-suicidal ideation (SI) relation among 780 (80.5% female) undergraduates. Social anxiety was significantly, robustly related to SI and to thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness. Social anxiety was indirectly related to SI via thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness. The sum of these indirect effects was significant. Moderated mediation analyses indicated that perceived burdensomeness only mediated the relation between social anxiety and SI at higher levels of thwarted belongingness. Findings highlight that difficulties in interpersonal functioning may serve as potential pathways through which social anxiety may lead to greater suicidality. Findings highlight that difficulties in interpersonal functioning may serve as potential pathways through which social anxiety may lead to greater suicidality.

Keywords: Interpersonal theory of suicide; Perceived burdensomeness; Social anxiety; Suicidal ideation; Suicide risk; Thwarted belongingness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Phobia, Social / psychology*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Students / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / psychology*
  • Young Adult