Enmeshment Schema and Quality of Life Deficits: The Mediating Role of Social Anxiety

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Social anxiety is associated with significant functional impairment and poor quality of life. However, there is a paucity of research on how early childhood and family dynamics may be related to social anxiety and its impact on quality of life. We investigated the role of enmeshment schemas, cognitive structures associated with emotional over-involvement with and lack of differentiation from family. Enmeshment is associated with considerable functional impairment, including elevated anxiety and depression and impaired relationship satisfaction. As enmeshment schemas predict withdrawal from stressful social interactions, they may facilitate the development of social anxiety and, through that mechanism, lead to reduced quality of life. Participants completed measures of these constructs. Social anxiety mediated the negative association between enmeshment and quality of life, particularly within the domains of personal growth, social functioning, and achievement. Implications for novel etiological conceptualizations of social anxiety and subsequent treatment interventions are discussed.

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