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Dissertation

The Role of Social Media in the Relationship Between Social Anxiety and Treatment-Seeking

6 December 2018

Abstract

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is one of the most common anxiety disorders diagnosed in the United States of America, but despite effective treatment options, only 5-25% of individuals that meet criteria receive treatment. Although some barriers to treatment have been identified for this population, there is limited research on the attitudinal barriers, such as stigma and health literacy, and what factors affect these barriers. One area of interest for this population is how social media use may help or hinder wellbeing. Current research has not shown a clear relationship in either direction. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between social anxiety symptoms, type of social media use, and attitudes towards seeking mental health treatment. Ninety-five adults who identified as having symptoms of social anxiety were recruited through social media platforms and completed an anonymous online self-report questionnaire about social anxiety symptoms, attitudes towards seeking mental health treatment, and a Facebook use questionnaire developed for the purposes of this study (SIAS-6, SPS-6, IASMHS). Individuals with low or high symptom severity reported more positive attitudes towards mental health treatment than those with moderate severity. Passive Facebook use did not moderate this relationship. Demographic variables were also analyzed as moderators; race, gender, sexual orientation, and age did not moderate the relationship. Based on these results, it is clear that more research is needed to identify contributing factors to the low treatment rate for this population. Suggestions for further research include exploring active internet use in this population, exploring other social media platforms that allow for anonymity, and using a control group without social anxiety to confirm that this pattern is unique to this population

Keywords: social anxiety, social phobia, social media, Facebook, passive internet use, treatment-seeking, attitudes towards treatment-seeking.


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