Social context and the real-world consequences of social anx
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Social anxiety lies on a continuum, and young adults with elevated symptoms are at risk for developing a range of psychiatric disorders. Yet relatively little is known about the factors that govern the hour-by-hour experience and expression of social anxiety in the real world.

Smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment (EMA) to intensively sample emotional experience across different social contexts in the daily lives of 228 young adults selectively recruited to represent a broad spectrum of social anxiety symptoms are represented.

Leveraging data from over 11,000 real-world assessments, these results highlight the central role of close friends, family members, and romantic partners. The presence of such close companions was associated with enhanced mood, yet socially anxious individuals had fewer confidants and spent less time with the close companions that they do have. Although higher levels of social anxiety were associated with a general worsening of mood, socially anxious individuals appear to derive larger benefits – lower levels of negative affect, anxiety, and depression – from their close companions. In contrast, variation in social anxiety was unrelated to the amount of time spent with strangers, co-workers, and acquaintances; and no evidence of emotional hypersensitivity to these less-familiar individuals were uncovered.

These findings provide a framework for understanding the deleterious consequences of social anxiety in emerging adulthood and set the stage for developing improved intervention strategies.

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