The association between social phobia, social anxiety cognitions and paranoid symptoms

S. I. J. Schutters*, M. -D. -G. Dominguez, S. Knappe, R. Lieb, J. van Os, K. R. J. Schruers, H. -U. Wittchen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objective: Previous research suggests high levels of comorbidity between social phobia and paranoid symptoms, although the nature of this association remains unclear. Method: Data were derived from the Early Developmental Stages of Psychopathology study, a 10-year longitudinal study in a representative German community sample of 3021 participants aged 14-24 years at baseline. The Munich-Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to assess social phobia and paranoid symptoms, along with data on social phobia features. Cross-sectional and longitudinal analyses were conducted. Differential associations with environmental risk factors and temperamental traits were investigated. Results: Lifetime social phobia and paranoid symptoms were associated with each other cross-sectionally (OR = 1.80, 95% CI = 1.31-2.47). Lifetime paranoid symptoms were associated specifically with social anxiety cognitions. Lifetime cognitions of negative evaluation predicted later onset of paranoid symptoms, whereas onset of social phobia was predicted by cognitions of loss of control and fear / avoidance of social situations. Lifetime social phobia and paranoid symptoms shared temperamental traits of behavioural inhibition, but differed in environmental risks. Conclusions: The present study showed that paranoid symptoms and social phobia share similarities in cognitive profile and inhibited temperament. Avoidance appears to be important in the development of social phobia, whereas cannabis use and traumatic experiences may drive paranoid thinking in vulnerable individuals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-227
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2012


  • social anxiety
  • paranoid symptoms
  • comorbidity
  • epidemiology


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