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Social Anxiety Disorder and Interpretation Bias in Adolescents

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Background and Goals: Social anxiety disorder is a common and disabling disorder in adolescents. It is generally assumed that cognitive processes play a central role in the maintenance of SAD and this is the basis for cognitive-behavioral therapy. Interpretation bias, a form of cognitive bias, namely the tendency to systematically assign a negative meaning to ambiguous social situations, is an important theoretical construct that has empirical support, and is considered to play a role in SAD. Interpretation bias has been extensively studied in adult populations, but has received little attention in adolescents. This paper aims to highlight what is known about interpretation bias in adolescents with social anxiety and discuss directions for future research in this area.

Methods: First, we present the main features of Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in adolescence, the developmental issues associated with this age, and the two major cognitivebehavioral models related to SAD development and maintenance. Next, we review the literature about the interpretation bias in adolescents with social anxiety, with reference to the component of the bias related to the interpretation of ambiguous social situations.

Conclusion: The literature regarding interpretation bias in adolescents is meager. Future studies should be conducted using both on-line (i.e., reaction time) and off-line (i.e. selfreport questionnaire) instruments, with the last being administered both immediately and after about two days, aiming to evaluate the relation between positive and negative interpretations at different stages of information processing. Moreover, the role of belief in negative interpretations should be analyzed further, in order to understand its role in the development and maintenance of SAD. Finally, adolescents' studies should differentiate between pre-adolescents, adolescents, and older adolescents, since there could be age-related differences.
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Keywords: Adolescents; cognitive bias; interpretation bias; negative interpretations; social anxiety

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2017

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  • Adolescent Psychiatry publishes reports of original research, critical reviews of topics relevant to practitioners, clinical observations with analysis and discussion, analysis of philosophical, ethical or social aspects of the fields of psychiatry and mental health, case reports with discussions, letters, and position papers. Adolescent Psychiatry, a peer-reviewed journal, and the official journal of the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry, aims to provide mental health professionals who work with adolescents with current information relevant to the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders in adolescence.
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