Social Anxiety Essay

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Social Anxiety Questionnaire: A New Scale to Measure Social Phobia

Social anxiety or social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder and affects millions of Americans. The effects of social anxiety can be quite devastating. There are several scales that have been developed to assess social anxiety in people, but there are few scales that consist of less than 20 items. The Social Anxiety Questionnaire, a 14-item scale to measure social anxiety, was tested on 89 college students and compared to the Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (Mattick & Clarke, 1998) and Eysenck's Introversion Scale (Eysenck. 1970; 1971) for validity. The psychometric properties of the scale, future directions for research, and practical applications of the scale are discussed.

The Social Anxiety Questionnaire: A New Scale to Measure Social Phobia

Social anxiety disorder (also known as social phobia) consists of feelings of apprehension, worry, or nervousness concerning being placed in situations where one may interact with others or may be scrutinized by others (Weeks, Heimberg, Rodebaugh, & Norton, 2008). Nearly everyone experiences some degree of anxiety pertaining to specific social situations, but a social anxiety disorder is identified when this level of anxiety is extreme, unrealistic, and out of proportion to the situation (American Psychiatric Association [APA], 2000). Most often the anxiety in this disorder is derived from the anticipation that an individual has of being evaluated by others or that he/she will be nervous or anxious in front of others and they will see this. The fear or apprehension of being in unfamiliar social situations or of being evaluated by others is so intense that the individual may not be able to carry out their normal functions, will often experience extreme anxiety when imagining themselves in these situations, and may attempt to avoid social situations that provoke these feelings all together (Anthony, 1997). Social anxiety disorders can present in a number of different manners including the fear of eating or drinking in front of others, the fear of performing in front of others (writing, working, or speaking), or fears of interacting with people. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual -IV-Text Revision social anxiety disorder or social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder and social anxiety is the third most common mental disorder in the United States affecting over 15 million people a year (APA, 2000). Social anxiety disorders often originate in adolescence and are more common in women than in men (Anthony, 1997). However, the effects of social anxiety disorder can be devastating to children, adolescents, and adults. Therefore psychometric instruments to assess for social anxiety can be useful in the diagnosis and treatment of the disorder (Anthony, 1997; Heimberg & Turk, 2002).

There have been several scales developed to measure social anxiety in individuals (Anthony, 1997; Mattick & Clarke, 1998); however, there are few scales that contain fewer than 20 items. The goal of the current study was to develop a scale of social anxiety that was succinct and yet valid and reliable.



Eighty-nine college students were contacted via email and took the surveys online using a computer. There was no information gathered regarding the age, sex, level of education, or ethnic background of the participants.


The Social Anxiety Questionnaire

The Social Anxiety Questionnaire was developed by the author who spent time studying other questionnaires and borrowing questions and ideas from them. The final scale consisted of 14 statements regarding the subjective experience of anxiety in social situations (see Table One for the 14 items in the questionnaire). Statements were worded in a fist person format and each item was answered on a five-point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree with the middle point being a neutral point (neither agree or disagree). In addition to the Social Anxiety Questionnaire two other measures were used in this study for convergent validity comparison purposes.

Social Interaction Anxiety Scale

The Social Interaction Anxiety Scale (SIAS; Mattick & Clarke, 1998), which measures anxiety regarding social interactions, is still one of the more widely used self-report measures of social anxiety. There have been many empirical studies demonstrating this scale's excellent reliability and construct validity (Brown, Turvosky, Heimburh, Juster et al., 1997; Heimberg & Turk, 2002). The scale consists of 20 statements worded in the first person. Statements are answered on a five-point scale ranging from "Not At All" to "Extremely." There is no neutral point.

Eysenck Introversion Scale

This is a 12-item scale recommended by Eysenck (1970; 1971) and first employed by McCroskey and associates (see McCroskey, 1985). The scale has demonstrated acceptable reliability and validity. Items are rated on a five-point scale ranging from "Strongly Disagree" to "Strongly Agree" with a middle neutral point. Introversion has been shown to be associated with social anxiety, but it is not the same construct (APA, 2000). Because the items were recommended by Eysenck the scale will referred to as the Eysenck Introversion Scale in this paper.


The participants were contacted via email and asked to fill out the questionnaires. Those that chose to cooperate filled out all three questionnaires online. Data was collected online and transferred into SPSS 20 for analysis.


Not all participants completed all three surveys. Thirty nine participants fully completed the Social Anxiety Questionnaire and the other questionnaires.

Social Anxiety Questionnaire

The means and standard deviations for the 14 items in the Social Anxiety Questionnaire are depicted in Table one.

As can be seen in Table one, many of the questions were answered participants answered in a negative (no experience of anxiety) or neutral manner. No overall mean item score was markedly above 3.0. The overall mean score across the 14 items was 2.845 with a standard deviation of 1.05. The lowest mean score occurred on item number one ("I feel uncomfortable being introduced to other people"); whereas the highest mean score occurred on question five ("I feel insecure and out of place in unfamiliar social situations.").

Cronbach's alpha for the 14 questions on the Social Anxiety Questionnaire was .85 indicating good item agreement and suggesting that the items indeed all measure a similar construct (Cronbach, 1951). All of the items appeared to hang together as there was no single item that would result in a significant change in the alpha if it were deleted. Inspection of the inter-item correlation matrix indicated low to moderate correlations across most of the questions (between .3 to .5) indicating a relationship between the questions, but not one so strong that the items were measure the exact same aspect of social anxiety. Two items did display a number of low relationships with several other questions. Questions number eight and number thirteen displayed correlations of less than .2 with five questions (they were not the same five questions). However, the removal of either of these questions would not increase the alpha level significantly. Two questions were correlated at slightly above .75 (questions numbers five and six). No two questions displayed correlations at .8 or above.

Looking at the Convergent Validity of the Social Anxiety Questionnaire

The Cronbach's alpha for the Eysenck Introversion Scale was .80 and the alpha for the SIAS was .95 indicating good internal consistency for both scales.

The overall mean values for the SIAS, the Eysenck Introversion Scale, and the Social Anxiety Questionnaire were calculated and correlated. The Correlation matrix for the mean values of the scales is depicted in Table Two.

As can be seen in Table Two the SIAS, the Eysenck Introversion Scale, and the Social Anxiety Questionnaire were all correlated significantly. The Social Anxiety Questionnaire was strongly correlated with the SIAS and with the Eysenck Introversion Scale, but much more strongly correlated with the SIAS. The SIAS and Eysenck Introversion Scale also shared a strong relationship.


The Social Anxiety questionnaire consisted of 14 questions developed by the author to assess for anxiety related to social situations and the fear of being evaluated by others. College students completed the questionnaire inline along with the SIAS and Eysenck's Introversion scale in order to determine the reliability and validity of the new scale. The Social Anxiety questionnaire demonstrated acceptable internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = .85).

Convergent validity was tested by correlating the means of the Social Anxiety Questionnaire with the mean values of the SIAS and Eysenck's Introversion scale. The resulting correlations all were significant and strong, with a stronger relationship between the SIAS and the Social Anxiety Questionnaire than with the Introversion scale. We would expect stronger relationships between the SIAS and the Social Anxiety questionnaire compared to the Introversion scale as while introversion and social anxiety are related they are not the same construct and weaker associations between introversion and social anxiety have been observed in the literature previously (Crozier, 1982). As such it appears that the new Social Anxiety Questionnaire does measure aspects of social anxiety; however since the Social Anxiety Questionnaire and the SIAS share 72% of the variance it may be that the Social anxiety Questionnaire is simply a different form of the SIAS and may not measure much aspects…[continue]

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