Perceptions of childhood experiences held by adults with Social Anxiety Disorder A study of perceptions of childhood care and abuse, parental styles and attachment types in adults with Social Anxiety Disorder

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Randell, Elaine
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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Social Anxiety Disorder is one of the most widespread of the anxiety disorders (Kessler et al 1994, Last, Perrin, Hersen & Kazdin, 1992, as cited in Elizabeth et al., 2006) and is 'characterised by clinically significant anxiety, provoked by exposure to a specific feared object or situation, often leading to avoidance behaviour' (APA, 2000, p.429). There are many factors involved in the aetiology of this disorder; biological, psychological and environmental and theories abound as to the main causes of the disorder. The aim of this study is to examine perceptions of childhood care and abuse, parenting styles, attachment styles and experience of counselling, if any, in adults living with Social Anxiety Disorder, when compared to a control group. Quantitative research using existing reliable and validated questionnaires where available, are used to measure these. Respondents were recruited from a follow up support group for Social Anxiety which is run by the Mater Hospital The control group sample was recruited randomly from the general population. In general, scores for perceived adverse experiences in childhood were higher for the sample than for the control group. Respondents from the sample group recorded higher levels of antipathy and neglect from their parents, higher levels of physical and sexual abuse and greater incidents of psychological abuse than the control group. It is not surprising therefore that these individuals live their lives in fear of humiliation and rejection, as this is what the majority of them were exposed to, at some level, growing up. The main attachment styles for the sample group were avoidant styles A and D while the control group had a higher incidence of secure attachment style, A. A higher percentage of the sample group had experienced one-to-one counselling and less of these than the control group considered that it would be of benefit to them in the future, indicating that CBT Group Therapy was all that had worked for their SA.