Expressed emotion, perceived criticism, and depression as predictors of outcome in treatment for social anxiety disorder
Fogler, Jason M.
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Although meta-analytic studies support the efficacy of cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder, a proportion of patients drop out of treatment or fail to benefit. Research to date has explored patient- and treatment-specific predictors of poor treatment response, including comorbid depression, but has not evaluated variables related to the patient's social environment. Expressed emotion (EE), an index of critical, hostile, and overprotective attitudes expressed by a significant other toward an individual with a psychiatric or medical condition, has been found to predict psychiatric relapse and poor treatment outcome in a wide range of disorders. Because EE and a closely related construct, perceived criticism, have been shown to predict treatment outcome and course in anxiety and mood disorders, it was expected that EE and perceived criticism would also predict treatment outcome in social anxiety disorder. Forty patients undergoing 12-session group cognitive-behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder completed questionnaires about their symptoms of social anxiety and depression, and levels of perceived criticism, before and after treatment. Each participant designated one significant other who was then assessed for EE using the Camberwell Family Interview, a semi-structured interview method. Results indicate that higher initial severity of social anxiety and lower levels of perceived criticism predicted treatment dropout. There was also a trend for participants with a significant other rated as high in emotional overinvolvement, one of the EE-subscales, to show less change on a composite measure of anxiety symptoms. Comorbid depression and critical EE were associated with pretreatment severity of social anxiety but not outcome. These findings add to an increasing body of literature showing that the manifestation of significant others' EE, and EE's effect on clinical outcome, can vary as a function of the identified patient's diagnosis. For socially anxious individuals, perceiving criticism in the social environment may provide an important impetus for seeking and adhering to treatment, whereas significant others' overprotective behavior may negatively impact their ability to benefit from treatment. Further research replicating these findings, clarifYing the mechanisms and developing supplemental interventions, are important future directions.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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