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Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research

On-line version ISSN 1414-431X

Abstract

MESQUITA, S.C.V. et al. The response of social anxiety disorder patients to threat scenarios differs from that of healthy controls. Braz J Med Biol Res [online]. 2011, vol.44, n.12, pp. 1261-1268.  Epub Oct 22, 2011 ISSN 1414-431X.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0100-879X2011007500137.

The objective of the present study was to evaluate the response of social anxiety disorder (SAD) patients to threat scenarios. First-choice responses to 12 scenarios describing conspecific threatening situations and mean scores of defensive direction and defensive intensity dimensions were compared between 87 SAD patients free of medication and 87 matched healthy controls (HC). A significant gender difference in the first-choice responses was identified for seven scenarios among HCs but only for two scenarios among SAD patients. A significantly higher proportion of SAD patients chose "freezing" in response to "Bush" and "Noise" scenarios, whereas the most frequent response by HCs to these scenarios was "check out". SAD males chose "run away" and "yell" more often than healthy men in response to the scenarios "Park" and "Elevator", respectively. There was a positive correlation between the severity of symptoms and both defensive direction and defensive intensity dimensions. Factorial analysis confirmed the gradient of defensive reactions derived from animal studies. SAD patients chose more urgent defensive responses to threat scenarios, seeming to perceive them as more dangerous than HCs and tending to move away from the source of threat. This is consistent with the hypothesis that the physiopathology of anxiety disorders involves brain structures responsible for defensive behaviors.

Keywords : Social anxiety disorder; Defensive response; Threat scenarios.

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