Fitting in and feeling fine: Conformity and coping motives differentially mediate the relationship between social anxiety and drinking problems for men and women

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Social anxiety nearly quintuples the risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. Although accumulating data suggest that socially anxious persons drink to manage negative effect, socially anxious persons suffer from elevations in both anxiety and depression. Thus, the present study sought to determine whether social anxiety was related to drinking to cope with anxiety or depression and whether drinking motives accounted for the relation of social anxiety to drinking problems among 461 (74% female, 48% with clinically elevated social anxiety) undergraduate drinkers. Compared to women with more normative levels of social anxiety, women with clinically elevated social anxiety endorsed more drinking to cope with anxiety and conformity motives. Drinking to cope with anxiety uniquely mediated the relation of social anxiety and drinking problems among women. Among men, social anxiety was uniquely related to conformity motives, which mediated the social anxiety-drinking problems relationship. Findings support prior work indicating that socially anxious men and women may use alcohol differently and provide unique data on the importance of drinking to cope with anxiety specifically among socially anxious women.

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Addiction research & theory

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