Inferiority in normal and anxious populations
Yao SN, Cottraux J.
Unite de Traitement de l'Anxiete,
Hopital Neurologique de Lyon,
59, boulevard Pinel, 69003, Lyon, France.
Encephale 2002 Jul-Aug;28(4):321-7


Background - The construct of inferiority can be defined as an intimate, unrealistic and persistent conviction to be always low-ranking in merit, value, intellectual and/or physical capacities (Weiner et Mohl, 1996; Yao et al., 1996). This can be considered as an important cognitive factor in anxiety disorders. But, does a feeling of inferiority also exist in normal subjects? We hypothesized that the feeling of inferiority might be a normal phenomenon if it is a transient experience, in relation to external events, and represents an aspect of self esteem. The Inferiority Scale (Yao et al., 1998), aimed at measuring the feeling of inferiority in anxiety, is a self-report instrument including 17 items assessing self-appraisal of inferiority and 17 items assessing inferiority linked to others' judgements. It showed good psychometric properties of reliability and validity in previous studies. The aim of our study was to confirm the existence of inferiority feeling in non-clinical subjects, and its continuity between normal and anxious populations. Method - We included 264 non-clinical subjects in the study. The mean age of the sample was 30.38 years old (SD=10.25) and 36% (94 Ss) were men. The anxious population was composed with 57 subjects suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and 43 patients with social phobia according to DSM IV. The mean age of this population was 34.0 years old (SD=10.6) and 51% of them were men. The Inferiority Scale was used in our study for evaluating the feeling of inferiority. Results - Most of non-clinical subjects reported low inferiority feelings and a part of the non-clinical subjects (15%) presented a moderate or strong feeling of inferiority, on the Inferiority Scale. The non-clinical subjects group was divided into two sub-groups (Low and High Inferiority) with the median of the Inferiority Scale total score. The total score and the sub-scores of the Inferiority Scale were all significantly higher in the two anxiety groups than in the two non-clinical sub-groups (p<0.0001) and higher in non-clinical subjects with high inferiority, compared to those with low inferiority (p<0.0001). Noting that the social phobic group presented higher scores of the Inferiority Scale than the OCD group (p=0.0058). There was a significant and negative correlation between age and the Inferiority Scale in non-clinical subjects, but there was no between-sex difference on the scale. Conclusion - Our results confirm the existence of inferiority feeling in non-clinical subjects and suggest the existence of continuity of inferiority feeling as a psychological trait between normal and pathological populations.

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