Coping strategies and phobias: The relationship between fears, phobias and methods of coping with stressors



Two studies are described which assessed the extent to which fears and phobias are associated with particular types of strategies for coping with stress. Study 1 compared scores on the Fear Survey Schedule (FSS) with scores on a modified version of the Health and Daily Living Form and the Miller Behavioural Style Scale (MBSS) in a normal population. A principal component analysis revealed that high scores on the social fears and miscellaneous phobias subscales of the FSS were directly associated with avoidance coping strategies, inversely associated with cognitive reappraisal strategies which devalue or deny the importance of the stressor, but unrelated to any of the measures on the MBSS. Study 2 compared the coping strategies of simple phobics, panic disorder patients and normal controls. Both simple phobics and panic disorder patients differed from normal control subjects by reporting greater use of avoidance coping strategies, and reduced use of cognitive threat devaluation. These findings are consistent with models of anxiety-based disorders which implicate avoidance or escape in the maintenance of such disorders, or which identify the evaluation of the precipitating trauma as important in the acquisition of such disorders.