INTOLERANCE OF UNCERTAINTY: A COGNITIVE VULNERABILITY THAT PREDISPOSES INDIVIDUALS TO DEVELOP SOCIAL ANXIETY DISORDER?
One of the goals in the field of psychology is to identify risk factors that may predispose certain individuals to develop psychological disorders. If psychologists can find such vulnerabilities, they can formulate behavioral interventions targeting those factors. One potential cognitive vulnerability that may be a risk factor for the development of social anxiety disorder is “intolerance of uncertainty” (IU). The primary aim of the current study is to explore the relationship between intolerance of uncertainty and social anxiety. 217 participants were chosen from a selection of individuals seeking services through a university run psychology clinic. Once enrolled in the study, they completed a battery of questionnaires regarding experience of anxiety and intolerance of uncertainty. They were then interviewed using a structured interview schedule based on DSM-IV criteria for diagnosis of anxiety disorders. The current analyses indicated that intolerance of uncertainty is significantly linked with social anxiety. In examining the direct and indirect paths in the model, all pathways were significant at the <.01 level. Interestingly, the direct path from intolerance of uncertainty to social anxiety was substantially stronger than any other pathway in the model. This suggests that intolerance of is uniquely related to social anxiety above and beyond the influence of other variables. Overall, the results of this study extend the work of previous research and provide empirical support for intolerance of uncertainty as a cognitive vulnerability impacting social anxiety. Future research should explore behavioral interventions targeted at reducing intolerance of uncertainty to ascertain its utility as a focus of clinical interventions.