Compensatory deficits following rejection: the role of social anxiety in disrupting affiliative behavior



Background: Managing perceived or actual social rejection is an important facet of meeting basic needs for affiliation. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is characterized by significant distress and debilitation relating to affiliation and recent work suggests higher levels of social anxiety symptoms may adversely affect responses to social rejection. This study examined emotional and behavioral responding to a social rejection stressor to explore whether social anxiety moderates the effects of social rejection on prosocial compensatory behaviors. Methods: Individuals (N=37) evaluated on social anxiety symptoms were assigned to either a social rejection condition or control condition. Results: Consistent with expectation, rejection promoted renewed interest in connecting with sources of positive social interaction among participants low in social anxiety. Participants with higher levels of social anxiety, however, failed to react to rejection in a positive or prosocial manner and exhibited some evidence of negative social responses. Conclusions: Such differential compensatory responding could have important implications for the genesis, maintenance, and treatment of SAD. Depression and Anxiety, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.