Social anxiety disorder and childhood trauma in the context of anxiety (behavioural inhibition), impulsivity (behavioural activation) and quality of life
Background: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in South Africa. Previous studies have linked childhood trauma with the development of SAD. The behavioural inhibition system (BIS) and the behavioural activation system (BAS), two dimensions of personality related to anxiety and impulsivity, respectively, are said to influence the development of psychopathology, including SAD. Both SAD and childhood trauma have an impact on quality of life. This study investigated the relationship between BIS, BAS and quality of life in patients with SAD with and without exposure to childhood trauma, compared to healthy controls.
Method: Data were collected for 102 adults. A total of 76 participants met SAD criteria, of which 51 were exposed to childhood trauma and 25 were not. The remaining 26 participants were demographically matched healthy controls. Measures of anxiety, impulsivity and quality of life were obtained by administering Carver and White’s BIS/BAS scales and the Quality of Life Enjoyment and Satisfaction Questionnaire – Self Report.
Results: A positive correlation was found between the severity of SAD symptoms and the amount of childhood trauma exposure. No significant differences in impulsivity were found across the three groups. Healthy controls reported significantly lower anxiety and a better quality of life than both groups with SAD, while no differences were found between patients with SAD and childhood trauma and those without childhood trauma.
Conclusion: More childhood trauma exposure appears to be associated with greater SAD severity. The lack of differences in BIS, BAS and quality of life in patients with SAD with or without childhood trauma requires further investigation.