Social Anxiety and Emotion Regulation

A review of “Mood Regulation and Quality of Life in Social Anxiety Disorder: An Examination of Generalized Expectancies for Negative Mood Regulation”


In a recent study, Sung et al. (2012) examined whether a belief that one will not be able to regulate his or her emotional responses was related to social anxiety disorder. Further, the authors looked at whether this negative belief was related to quality of life. Results of this study indicated that those with social anxiety disorder had more negative beliefs about their ability to regulate their emotions and that this was related to lower quality of life. These results underscore the importance of learning good emotion regulation strategies and also working on negative beliefs that individuals have about their abilities.


What were the goals of this study?

The main goals of the study were the following:

  • To compare the amount of negative beliefs regarding one’s emotion regulation abilities between those with and without social anxiety disorder. In addition, the authors wanted to examine whether there were differences in their beliefs based upon whether they were alone or in a social situation.
  • To investigate whether these negative beliefs were related to overall quality of life.

What is emotion regulation?

Emotion regulation is a way of categorizing all the mental and behavioral strategies that individuals use to respond to their negative moods. These strategies can be effective in reducing upsetting feelings or ineffective. For example, exercising, getting adequate sleep, or doing a pleasant activity is often an effective strategy regulating negative moods. Conversely, drinking alcohol or suppressing negative emotions is often considered an ineffective strategy. In addition, sometimes individuals do not attempt to engage in emotion regulation strategies because they do not believe in their ability to effectively regulate their emotional responses.

How did the authors examine the study goals?

The authors compared 167 individuals with social anxiety disorder with 165 individuals without any diagnoses. Participants in the study were given an interview to examine what diagnoses they had. Additionally, a clinician-rated measure of social anxiety symptoms was administered and participants completed a number of questionnaire measures.

What were the main findings from this study?

There were three main findings:

  • Those with social anxiety disorder had more negative beliefs about their beliefs to regulate their negative mood states, particularly in social situations. Conversely, their beliefs about their emotion regulation abilities when they are alone were similar to those without social anxiety disorder.
  • These negative beliefs regarding their emotion regulation strategies were related to lower quality of life.

What are the implications of this study?

The results of this study underscore the importance of emotion regulation strategies for those with social anxiety disorder, particularly their lack of confidence in their abilities to regulate their emotions in social situations. It may be that individuals both lack good emotion regulation skills or that they just lack confidence in their abilities to cope.

What might this mean for me?

If these results sound familiar to you, you should talk to mental health care provider about learning more emotion regulation strategies. In addition, you might start a conversation about your beliefs regarding your ability to cope.

How can I learn more about this study?

If you would like to learn more about this study, please click the following link:

If you would like to learn more about emotion regulation strategies, please click the following link, which discusses some emotion regulation skills from the empirically-supported treatment, DBT.


Sung, S. C., Porter, E., Robinaugh, D. J., Marks, E. H., Marques, L. M., Otto, M. W., . . . Simon, N. M. (2012). Mood regulation and quality of life in social anxiety disorder: An examination of generalized expectancies for negative mood regulation. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 26(3), 435-441. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2012.01.004

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