Social anxiety news and stories round-up

Blogs

An artist studying art therapy gives an account of her life and experiences of bullying, judgement of her physical appearance and of subsequent social anxiety: “The pain and loneliness I felt from my social isolation was beyond imagining, so I drew to feel less alone. I am no stranger to heartbreak, betrayal and disappointment, and rather then let the pain defeat me I used it to create something beautiful. Heartbreak actually inspired most of my artworks. I use my emotional pain as a major source of inspiration in most of my works. I like to focus on the themes of life and death, nature because it brings life to my heart, and death which represents the suffering.”

A series of clearly written suggestions for using our senses to de-stress, highlighting sound, smell, feel and touch: “Figure out what sounds bring you a sense of peace or help relax you and begin using them to your advantage. The most commonly suggested method for this would be through listening to music, as this can have a positive psychological impact and has been shown to help ease low moods. Whether you are a fan of upbeat pop or more melancholy ballads, music can help us explore our emotions and ease our stress very effectively.”

A succinct post, describing emotions, particularly, feelings of helplessness: “Went for a walk with Sherri yesterday…and came back just full of social anxiety…I just have such a proliferation of thoughts after social encounters, even with people I trust. Why is it so hard to be straight forward? I’m so fed up with myself…”

The writer presents succinct descriptions of childhood friendships, which provide an insightful perspective into character and bonds: “From my infant friend Lincoln, I learnt in humans that I like those who complement my personality, but that’s not to say I atall dislike people similar to me. In fact a certain threshold of shared ethics is necessary. If you ask me when I juxtapose all of these friendships, I see very little in common. Maybe that’s the point. I build myself strong allies of a diverse settings.”

Research

This is a 1990 publication which suggests that social anxiety or phobia has a high incidence amongst the Saudi population and compares it to “the West” where “agoraphobia is the most common phobic disorder and constitutes about 60% of all clinically diagnosed phobic conditions, while social phobia is relatively rare.” The article goes on to suggest some possible reasons for this, including sociocultural.

I have included this article in this list particularly for the following quote: “Social anxiety seems to arise in people who are unduly sensitive to disapproval and criticism and who have inflexible ideas about social conventions which cause them to expect criticism unnecessarily.” This is attributed to a 1974 journal article which I could not find online: Nichols KA. Severe social anxiety. Br J Med Psychol. 1974; 47:301-6.

This quotation suggests an objective judgement of social fear based on an unspecified general standard, without reference to individual history, vulnerabilities or capacities. This objective standard may be helpful for identification of the need for treatment or support, but as a definition of social anxiety, it denies the subjective experience and condition of the person with symptoms and thus denies a holistic treatment approach. The definition also denies the reality of social power differences and social harms, beyond disapproval and criticism. I believe that this narrowly focused understanding of social anxiety disorder is found in modern medical understanding and treatments.

“Social anxiety is a highly prevalent and impairing condition. Understanding prodromal features of social anxiety in infancy can facilitate early intervention and mitigate negative long-term impacts. The present study is the first to examine social anxiety risk markers across multiple indices in infants with fragile X syndrome (FXS), who are at elevated risk for comorbid social anxiety disorder. Evidence suggests that infants with FXS display both behavioral and physiological markers of social anxiety that are detectable as early as 12 months of age. However, these findings were nuanced and not consistent across all measures, highlighting the importance of a multi-method biobehavioral approach.”

Articles

Australian freelance writer, Marnie Vinall, describes the positive experience of joining and integrating into a supportive Aussie rules football team: “I managed to make it a whole three weeks in before needing to sit out a training session because my anxiety got the better of me. It was in a regular drill called “chaos”, which involves a series of balls going in any and every direction. The purpose to practise kicking, marking, calling for the ball and making yourself open and available. “The aim,” the coach said, “is to get your hands on the ball as many times as possible.”

“For some, it will be hard to quiet the ‘threat brain’ and as a result, we may actually see a rise in OCD type symptoms. It’s important to understand that with OCD it is actually anxiety and fear at the root of the problem, it’s just the OCD are the symptoms we see.”

Another article looking at the fears that reopening of countries may bring, with particular attention on those most vulnerable, such as people with anxiety disorders: “Experts say it’s important to acknowledge your stress during this transition. It’s normal to feel nervous. People shouldn’t judge themselves too harshly for their anxieties.”

A deeper look at foods beneficial to emotional and physical health: “Serotonin has a calming effect and also promotes sleep and relaxation, McKittrick explained. In fact, low levels of brain serotonin, research has suggested, can lead to increased vulnerability to psychosocial stress.

Tryptophan is an amino acid that is necessary for the production of serotonin in the brain. Complex carbs including whole grains and vegetables can help boost levels of serotonin because they make tryptophan more available in the brain.”

Very frank and insighful account of a woman fearing social interactions after the lifting of pandemic restrictions in the UK: “Fortunately, I found a career where I could escape those feelings for a couple of hours. As a nanny, social anxiety dissipated as the focus was on the children and I was able to forget about me. I worked long hours and did something so fulfilling, that I realised when it came to caring for others – such as the children I worked with, or taking my husband to hospital – the feeling of being needed, the purpose of doing something for others, overtook the dread and fear.”

Prior to the lockdown in the UK, she had started a new job role: “I don’t currently know if I will be able to go back to it – the most I can achieve is going to a chemist to collect my husband’s medication once a month and that is a mammoth task that takes a lot of psychological build-up.”

Reblogged: Me, My Mental Health Battle and I: My University Story

In the blog-post linked below, a third-year university student, with dyspraxia and a multi-system disorder, shares his mental health struggles and crises, especially, during the second-year, and provides useful advice for addressing mental health difficulties, including social anxiety and depression, at university. A key piece of advice he offers, based on his own improvement, is sharing concerns and difficulties with trusted people by reaching out to university mental health and well-being services and amongst peers.

The student, Bukky, presents himself as outgoing and having a close group of friends and, yet, he found himself, in the second year, unable to leave his room – and, at times, even unable to answer his mother’s phone calls. He also describes struggling to eat and to look at people. He ascribes the difficulties to a combination of depression, social anxiety, stress anxiety and his existing challenges with dyspraxia and a rare multi-system disorder, known as Kabuki Syndrome.

“I realised on reflection,” he writes,  “these feelings stemmed from a multiple of reasons, such as being home sick, stressed about course work and deadlines, feel really about myself along with having a hard time progressing from first year to second year along with several breakdowns.” He adds, “(s)ome of my internal struggles came thinking and feeling like I was different, I wasn’t like everybody else.”

Bukky lists actions that benefited him, including reaching out to the university – including his uni mentor and the well-being service for advice and help. He received meetings with his mentor, regular counselling, food vouchers, more time for his coursework and he also scheduled extra time to visit his family. He describes being checked on every day by Student Well-being.

He also shared his difficulties with his family and his friends – who convinced whom to stay on because they “explained their own university experience would not be the same if I wasn’t around.”

Finally, Bukky recognised that he felt different and lacking compared to others. He outlines a series of actions he took on his own to boost his own mood and self-esteem, including listening to music with uplifting and relatable lyrics and reading positive quotes on social media in order to feel his own self-worth.

Whilst no two situations are alike, the experience of this student, who was fortunate to have a supportive friendship network, suggest that sharing difficulties and seeking help from friends and support services can be highly beneficial. They enable communication, attention and a relieving of the stresses of university academic life by, for example, adjustments to deadlines and exams. Moreover, peers can provide a support network to relieve isolation and loss of self-esteem. Finally, personal work to strengthen self-worth through connecting with interests and inspirational stories also benefited this individual.

Read the full blog-post by University of Derby third-year student, Bukky, at his blog.

BukkyLifeBlogs1

1:Introduction

My name is Bukky, I am a third-year Media and Communications student at the University of Derby. I would say my friends would describe me as very smiley, bubbly, chatty, humorous and laidback. As you can look at from the pictures above. However, I went from trying to do my best fortnight moves in Walkabout to feeling very anxious and refusing to leave my room. I’d like to share my story with you, in hope that if you relate, I can support you in improving your mental health while at university.

2:How I struggled?

1:Hold on, let’s rewind – Me refusing to leave my room, yep that was how I felt. Let’s just say, my second year at university was when my mental health really affected me more than ever. I had days where I would be so depressed, for no clear reason, to the point where I switched…

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