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Investigating Effects and Mechanisms of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Intervention in a Sample of College Students at Risk for Social Anxiety


The aims of this study were two-fold: (1) to investigate the effectiveness of a 6-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program in a sample of college students at risk for social anxiety and (2) to investigate whether emotion regulation strategies and self-compassion act as mechanisms of MBSR effectiveness. Participants in this study were predominantly female college students identified as at risk for social anxiety, who were randomly assigned to either the MBSR intervention or to the wait list control group. The final sample included 22 participants in the MBSR group and 24 in the wait list control group for whom pre-intervention and post-intervention (1 week after the MBSR intervention was finalized) data were gathered on self-report measures. The results showed that MBSR participation lead to significant reductions in social anxiety and perceived stress. Also, significant post-intervention differences in favor of the MBSR group compared to the wait list control group were found for self-compassion and acceptance, but not for positive reinterpretation. Mediation analyses employing a bootstrap procedure with 95% confidence intervals were conducted to test the potential MBSR intervention mechanisms. The results revealed that acceptance and self-compassion mediated the relationship between MBSR participation and social anxiety, as well as MBSR participation and perceived stress. The current findings indicated that mindfulness-based interventions might work by: (1) reducing self-identification with successes and failures in social and stressful situations and (2) deactivating appraisals concerning anxiety provoking situations.

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Authors and Affiliations



CAȘ designed the study, performed the data analyses, and wrote a large proportion of the manuscript. CC collaborated on the design, wrote parts of the discussion section, and implemented the online homework delivery. MS collaborated on the design and implemented the MBSR training.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catrinel A. Ștefan.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Ștefan, C.A., Căpraru, C. & Szilágyi, M. Investigating Effects and Mechanisms of a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Intervention in a Sample of College Students at Risk for Social Anxiety. Mindfulness 9, 1509–1521 (2018).

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  • Social anxiety
  • MBSR
  • Effectiveness
  • Mechanisms
  • Positive reinterpretation
  • Acceptance
  • Self-compassion