Background: Post event processing (PEP) in social anxiety disorder involves rumination about social events after the fact, and is thought to be a crucial feature of the maintenance of the disorder. Aims: The current experiment aimed to manipulate the use of PEP in individuals with social anxiety disorder. Method: Forty-one individuals with social anxiety disorder completed a videotaped speech. Anxiety ratings and degree of PEP were measured after the task as well as the day following the experiment. Results: Individuals in the distract group reported a greater decrease in anxiety from baseline to post-experimental task than those asked to focus. Individuals in the distract group also reported higher PEP about the task than those instructed to complete a focus task, which appeared to be partially accounted for by baseline differences in symptom severity and state anxiety. Degree of PEP was positively correlated with anxiety ratings, both after the experimental task as well as 24 hours later. Conclusions: These findings suggest that naturalistic PEP is problematic for individuals with social anxiety disorder, especially for those with more severe symptoms. A distraction task, even with breakthrough PEP, appears to have useful short-term effects on anxiety reduction as compared to focus instructions.
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