Thinking while drinking: Fear of negative evaluation predicts drinking behaviors of students with social anxiety

Addict Behav. 2018 Mar;78:160-165. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.10.021. Epub 2017 Oct 31.


College students with social anxiety disorder experience more alcohol-related negative consequences, regardless of the amount of alcohol they consume. Social anxiety refers to psychological distress and physiological arousal in social situations due to an excessive fear of negative evaluation by others. The current study examined within-group differences in alcohol-related negative consequences of students who met or exceeded clinically-indicated social anxiety symptoms. In particular, we tested a sequential mediation model of the cognitive (i.e., fear of negative evaluation) and behavioral (protective behavioral strategies) mechanisms for the link between social anxiety disorder subtypes (i.e., interaction and performance-type) and alcohol-related negative consequences. Participants were 412 traditional-age college student drinkers who met or exceeded the clinically-indicated threshold for social anxiety disorder and completed measures of fear of negative evaluation, protective behavioral strategies (controlled consumption and serious harm reduction), and alcohol-related negative consequences. Fear of negative evaluation and serious harm reduction strategies sequentially accounted for the relationship between interaction social anxiety disorder and alcohol-related negative consequences, such that students with more severe interaction social anxiety symptoms reported more fear of negative evaluation, which was related to more serious harm reduction strategies, which predicted fewer alcohol-related negative consequences. Future directions and implications are discussed.

Keywords: Alcohol-related negative consequences; College students; Fear of negative evaluation; Social anxiety disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Alcohol Drinking in College / psychology*
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fear / psychology*
  • Female
  • Harm Reduction
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reinforcement, Psychology
  • Self Concept
  • Social Responsibility
  • Students / psychology
  • Thinking*
  • Young Adult