Social anxiety and heavy situational drinking: coping and conformity motives as multiple mediators

Meredith A. Terlecki, School of Psychology, University of East London, Stratford, London E15 4LZ, United Kingdom. Electronic address:
Julia D. Buckner, Department of Psychology, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, United States.


INTRODUCTION: Individuals with clinically elevated social anxiety are at greater risk for alcohol use disorder, and the relation between social anxiety and drinking problems is at least partially accounted for by drinking more in negative emotional (e.g., feeling sad or angry) and personal/intimate (e.g., before sexual intercourse) situations. Identification of cognitive/motivational factors related to drinking in these high-risk situations could inform the development of treatment and prevention interventions for these high-risk drinkers. METHOD: The current cross-sectional study examined the mediating effect of drinking motives on the relationship between social anxiety and drinking these high-risk situations among undergraduates (N=232). RESULTS: Clinically elevated social anxiety was associated with greater coping and conformity motives. Both coping and conformity motives mediated the relation between social anxiety and heavier alcohol consumption in negative emotional and personal/intimate contexts. CONCLUSIONS: Multiple mediation analyses indicated that these motives work additively to mediate the social anxiety-drinking situations relationship, such that heavy situational drinking among undergraduates with clinically elevated social anxiety can be jointly attributed to desire to cope with negative affect and to avoid social scrutiny.