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A study of Chinese students found that individuals with stronger psychopathy, Machiavellianism, sadism, and self-concealment tended to have more pronounced social appearance anxiety. Individuals with more pronounced narcissism, on the other hand, tended to have lower social appearance anxiety. The paper was published in Scientific Reports.

Social appearance anxiety is a psychological condition characterized by intense fear or worry about being negatively evaluated or judged by others based on one’s physical appearance. It is a form of social anxiety that specifically focuses on concerns about body image, attractiveness, and the perception of one’s looks by others. Individuals with social appearance anxiety may experience significant distress in social situations, leading to avoidance behaviors, low self-esteem, and impaired social functioning.

Studies have shown that social appearance anxiety can be influenced by media and the social standards they set. Media promotion of very attractive men and women and setting them as a social standard can lead people to appreciate their own bodies less and increase social appearance anxiety. However, it remains insufficiently clear whether personality traits affect social appearance anxiety. Researchers are particularly interested in the Dark Tetrad traits, personality traits known to be linked to various negative psychosocial outcomes.

The Dark Tetrad refers to a set of four personality traits that are considered malevolent or socially aversive. These traits are Machiavellianism, characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others; narcissism, marked by grandiosity, entitlement, and a lack of empathy; psychopathy, involving impulsivity, callousness, and a lack of remorse; and sadism, defined by deriving pleasure from inflicting pain or suffering on others. These traits are considered malevolent due to their association with manipulative, self-serving, and harmful behaviors.

Study author Wenjing Jin and her colleagues wanted to explore the links between social appearance anxiety, the Dark Tetrad traits and self-concealment. Self-concealment is the tendency to keep personal information, feelings, or experiences hidden from others, even when such concealment leads to psychological distress. These authors conducted an online survey.

Study participants were 1186 Chinese students aged 15 to 25 years. 588 of them were females. 324 of them were the only child in the family. Around 52% lived in the countryside.

Students completed assessments of narcissism (the Narcissistic Personality Inventory), psychopathy (the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale), Machiavellianism (the Machiavellian Personality Scale), sadism (the Short Sadistic Impulse Scale), self-concealment (the Self-Concealment Scale), and social appearance anxiety (the Social Appearance Anxiety Scale).

Results showed that social appearance anxiety was the most strongly associated with self-concealment. Students with more pronounced social appearance anxiety tended to be more prone to self-concealment. Students with more pronounced psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and sadism tended to have a bit more pronounced social appearance anxiety as well. Individuals with more pronounced narcissism tended to have a very tiny bit lower social appearance anxiety on average. Aside from personality traits, students with poorer relationship with parents tended to have somewhat more pronounced social appearance anxiety.

“The results of the analysis showed that (a)[there were] no sex differences in social appearance anxiety, sex differences were found in Machiavellianism, psychopathy, sadism, and self-concealment; (b) psychopathy, Machiavellianism, sadism, and self-concealment positively predicted social appearance anxiety, whereas narcissism was a negative predictor. Narcissism was a protective factor against social appearance anxiety, while psychopathy, Machiavellianism, sadism, and self-concealment were associated with higher social appearance anxiety,” the study authors concluded.

The study sheds light on the links between personality and social appearance anxiety. However, it also has limitations that need to be taken into account. Notably, the association with narcissism was almost negligible. It was detectable only because the study sample was very large. Additionally, all the study participants were students. Results on other demographic groups might not be the same.

The paper, “Social appearance anxiety among the dark tetrad and self-concealment,” was authored by Wenjing Jin, Tingting Zhan, Yaoguo Geng, Yibo Shi, Wanying Hu, and Bei Ye.

Do you think you may suffer from Anxiety and live in Florida, California or New York?

If so, please consider scheduling a proper virtual online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis with one of our physicians. Although we have an online ADHD and Anxiety diagnosis tool, a proper diagnosis from a Board-Certified Medical Doctor will help you know for sure. If appropriate, a customized treatment program will be recommended at the conclusion of that initial visit.

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