Fear of positive evaluation and alcohol use problems among college students: the unique impact of drinking motives

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: There is strong empirical support that individuals with elevated social anxiety are at risk for alcohol-related impairment. Because social anxiety is a multifaceted construct, it is important to consider which specific facets contribute to alcohol problem vulnerability. For example, although social anxiety has traditionally been conceptualized as a fear of negative evaluation (FNE), emerging data suggest that fear of positive evaluation (FPE) is also an important factor in pathological social anxiety. The current manuscript reports novel findings regarding FPE, alcohol use motives, and reported alcohol use problems. DESIGN AND METHODS: Participants included undergraduates from two American universities (n = 351) who completed a battery of measures assessing fears of evaluation, drinking motives, and alcohol usage related problems. RESULTS: FPE significantly predicted alcohol use problems, above and beyond FNE. Also, coping and conformity motives for drinking, but not social or enhancement motives, each uniquely mediated the relationship between FPE and alcohol use problems. CONCLUSIONS: FPE may be an important cognitive-affective vulnerability factor. With additional clinical research, FPE could serve as a meaningful therapeutic target in interventions designed to decrease problem drinking among highly socially anxious patients.

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Anxiety, stress, and coping

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