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The role of underutilization of protective behavioral strategies in the relation of social anxiety with risky drinking

Social anxiety and problematic drinking are prevalent in the undergraduate college population. Studies have looked some into how these two are related and affect each other. This study specifically looks at protective behavioral strategies (PBS) in those with social anxiety along with problematic drinking. To complete the study, researchers surveyed students from a large state university in the southern United States.

To collect data, participants filled out a survey answering questions about alcohol use and problems, protective strategies, and social anxiety. Protective strategies were measured using The Protective Behavioral Strategies Survey (PBSS). This assessed 3 categories of strategies used to prevent heavy drinking. The final sample was 431 students who all endorsed at least one episode of past-month heavy drinking.  The mean age of the students was 20.3 and 24% of the participants were determined to have social anxiety disorder. They study found that there was a positive correlation with social anxiety and drinking problems. However, social anxiety was negatively correlated with drinking frequency. Finally, they found that those with social anxiety did not utilize PBSS Manner of Drinking. These strategies include things like “avoiding drinking games” and “avoiding pre-gaming.”

What all of this means is that students with social anxiety may be more likely to report heavier drinking and alcohol problems. They are more likely to want to avoid social ridicule, so they will try to keep up with their friends and participate in the drinking games, which puts them at a higher risk for dangerous drinking. This provides important implications for treatment and prevention of heavy drinking in these individuals. By knowing this information, counseling can be provided to help students with social anxiety and their cognitions surrounding protective strategies while they are drinking.

Take Away: Social anxiety and problematic drinking are both prevalent in college undergraduate students. This study looked at correlations between students with social anxiety and their drinking behaviors. Researchers found that those with social anxiety were more likely to participate in heavy drinking and less likely to use protective strategies while drinking. This may be due to their fear of receiving public ridicule by those they are drinking with. This information is important to know when counseling individuals with social anxiety and giving them strategies to prevent problematic heavy drinking.

Terlecki, M. A., Ecker, A. H., & Buckner, J. D. (2019). The role of underutilization of protective behavioral strategies in the relation of social anxiety with risky drinking. Addictive Behaviors, 106122. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2019.106122

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