Social anxiety news and stories round-up

Blogs

The writer provides a personal insight into a difficult incident of social anxiety in the workplace and her efforts to manage and reflect on the experience: “Today I had to lead a meeting on a topic about COVID and did horribly. I froze up, rambled, and made no sense. My supervisor and two others noticed I was freaking out and didn’t really help. Then I sat in my office and basically just stared at my computer for 30 mins. I decided to just text my boss and said I was going home because I have anxiety and can’t focus. Then I went home and cried for an hour.”

A 27 year old woman describes the difficulties with socialising with family members with strong Trump supporting political opinions and attitudes: “I guess I need to learn to steel myself a little better to their remarks. I know full well that just because they think one way intensely doesn’t necessarily mean they are right. I know it’s not a personal attack against me, but sometimes their opinions make me uncomfortable. It’s that whole them being so right-wing conservative (so Trump brain-washed) that eats away at me because the views they espouse are like night and day from how I feel. And sometimes I sit there wondering how could they really think that?”

The post explores dissociation, with the writer giving personal examples of experiences: “I used to volunteer at a food bank before Covid arrived. I had just received a call from a shop asking if I would like to do two months worth of work experience with them. I said yes and thanked them before hanging up. However, my anxiety kicked in and instantly I dissociated, zoning out into space. I could hear another male volunteer trying to have a conversation with me, but I couldn’t pull myself out. When I finally came out of it, I felt embarrassed and instantly apologised multiple times, explaining that I wasn’t ignoring him and I was just experiencing dissociation. I’m happy to report that he just laughed and said he was okay with that as long as I was okay.”

Working at a grocery store in the US, the writer is unfairly moved into a new role but is able to appreciate the personal benefits, despite the injustice of the decision: “Ultimately, I found this new position to be a million times less stressful than my old position—to the point that I almost consider it enjoyable. Most of my week is spent up front at the doors sanitizing carts or counting customers as I’m one of the few that can afford to spend all day up there without it affecting my work. It also might have to do with the fact that I’m one of the few employees that doesn’t bitch about being up at the doors. I really have no reason to whine since door duty no longer takes me away from working an understaffed area that desperately needs stocking constantly.”

A ‘thirty something environmental scientist’ describes the challenges of a work field trip having started her role as a remote worker, facing challenges with training and interaction: “My co-worker even told me not to be so hard on myself and not to feel like I need to get everything right away because he said after 14 years, he still gets confused and unsure. Our job is nebulous sometimes and subject to arbitrary decisions. Maybe that’s the nature of regulation. We’re almost environmental lawyers, having to interpret what laws mean and squash environment and science into these boxes where they don’t fit neatly.”

Creative writing

i’ll take the long way home, and carve out a path along hiking trails and highways, all of my own. trace the geography of broken promises along my collarbone, and try not to dance on the walk home, a smile breaking out across my cheeks despite it all. despite myself. feel the bruises, and scrapes, and scars, the way my thighs touch, and just let them fucking exist.

a catalog of fears, a series of questions, reasons to disappear. ideally, selfless writing mimics the camera, in the antiseptic laboratory condition tradition, stripped of human emotion. a program which mimics nostalgia. the verb is missing but the lecture continues.

For a group of communinist dissidents, no-one seemed to do much. Young, fashionable people, people with long hair and flared trousers and slim-fit paisley shirts, came to the flat each night to smoke and talk about movies, people at the university, the state of the economy, politics. Ana knew about soil acidity and fermentation tanks. She knew a little about American fiction and her favourite singer, Josipa Lisac. Sometimes she wouldn’t know if they were talking about a film director, actor, politician, or a mutual friend.

Research

  • Social Anxiety and the Generation of Positivity During Dyadic Interaction: Curiosity and Authenticity are the Keys to Success – Kevin C. Barber, Maggie A.M. Michaelis, David A. Moscovitch – Behavior Therapy, online March 31, 2021

“Dyadic analyses revealed that participants’ affiliative goals during the social interaction predicted positive outcomes for both themselves and their partners, although the link between affiliative goals and positive affect was weaker for participants with high SA. Mediation analyses demonstrated that adopting affiliative goals may promote more positive outcomes by increasing participants’ curiosity and felt authenticity. Taken together, results illuminate the pathways through which people with varying levels of trait SA may derive interpersonally generated positive affect and positive social outcomes, with implications for clinical theory and practice.”

  • Response Inhibition, Cognitive Flexibility and Working Memory in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Social Anxiety Disorder – Ana Isabel Rosa-Alcázar, Ángel Rosa-Alcázar, Inmaculada C Martínez-Esparza, Eric A Storch, Pablo J Olivares-Olivares – Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Mar 31;18(7):3642 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33807425/

“This study analyzed response inhibition, cognitive flexibility and working memory in three groups of patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, considering some variables that may influence results (nonverbal reasoning, comorbidity, use of pharmacotherapy).”

  • Social anxiety disorder and the fear of death: An empirical investigation of the terror management approach towards understanding clinical anxiety. Zuccala, M., & Abbott, M. J. (2021). https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2021-01861-001

“Emerging evidence suggests that death anxiety is an important transdiagnostic construct underlying a range of psychological disorders. Terror Management Theory (TMT) is currently the preeminent theoretical framework used to explain the role that death fears play in psychopathology. This study sought to examine the TMT approach to understanding clinical anxiety while addressing several methodological limitations associated with the existing empirical literature. Method: Semi-structured diagnostic interviewing was employed to recruit two groups of participants with either Social Anxiety Disorder or no anxiety diagnosis. All participants were randomly allocated to receive either mortality salience or control priming, before undertaking two tasks designed to measure social and physical anxiety symptoms, respectively. Results: The overall pattern of results failed to provide evidence in support of the novel hypotheses derived from TMT. Mortality salience priming did not exacerbate social anxiety symptoms for participants with Social Anxiety Disorder, but did exacerbate physical anxiety symptoms for these individuals. No such effect was observed for non-clinical participants. Conclusion: These results suggest that more robust theoretical frameworks may be needed to explain the evident, but likely complex, relationship between death fears and clinical anxiety. Directions for future research are discussed. “

“The relationship between separation anxiety and suicidality has not been explored extensively,” Stefano Pini, MD, of the department of clinical and experimental medicine at University of Pisa in Italy, and colleagues wrote. “One study found an association between separation anxiety disorder and increased risk [for] suicidal behaviors in a prospective study of 500 Indian adolescents in a rural community. Another study reported an association between severity of separation anxiety symptoms and suicidal ideation in a small sample (n = 31) of patients with social anxiety disorder, although the observed association was dependent on comorbidity with major depression and avoidant personality disorder.”

  • Candidate Factors Maintaining Social Anxiety in the Context of Psychotic Experiences: A Systematic Review – Warut Aunjitsakul, Nicola McGuire, Hamish J McLeod, Andrew Gumley – Schizophr Bull. 2021 Mar 29 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33778868/

“Prominent psychological factors maintaining social anxiety included self-perceptions of stigma and shame. Common correlates of social anxiety included poorer functioning and lower quality of life. In conclusion, stigma and shame could be targeted as a causal mechanism in future interventional studies. The integration of findings from this review lead us to propose a new theoretical model to guide future intervention research.”

News articles

A light-hearted look at the fears of a young woman and her friends as lockdown restriction easing in the UK allows her to meet up with five friends outdoors over Easter: “Staying at home eliminates the holy trinity of social anxiety: the fear of missing out, the fear of actually being there, and the fear of what you did or said that creeps in after you’ve left.”

A humorous take on common behaviours prompted by socially anxiety: “This is my favorite game to play. Peek-a-boo, you don’t see me. I can’t recall the number of times I’ve strolled into a store and out of nowhere, launched myself behind a rack for cover because I recognized someone. Did they see me? Oh God, I hope they didn’t see me. What if they saw me hide? What if they come my way now, what do I say? Oh God, why am I like this? Usually, I’m by myself, so I don’t have to explain my behavior to someone else and feel extra stupid. But when I’m out with my husband, I have to deal with him too because he snickers and leaves me to my own insanity. Hello, social anxiety. I trail slowly behind and intermittently ask him to check if the coast is clear. I keep track of that person’s whereabouts until they leave the store. Don’t ask me how much time I’ve wasted doing this.”

“Think about the biggest challenges you’ve faced and overcome. Looking at your strongest, wisest moments, do you think you could use that same strength and wisdom to prevail in this potential challenge as well?

What do you think you could learn from it? In what ways do you think you would gain strength as you face these new obstacles?

Thinking about your strengths and your best moments can help you to remember that, while you may not enjoy your current circumstances, you have the strength to handle what comes. You may find new strengths you didn’t know you had!”

Article on London based writer, Russell Norris, who experiences severe facial blushing as an anxiety symptom: “Norris has decided to confront his fears by being more open about them. He’s written a book, Red Face: How I Learnt to Live with Social Anxiety, about what life is like as a perpetual blusher. “It’s not easy, is the short answer,” he notes. “I became an expert in avoidance.””

“Walk Four And A Half Miles In My Shoes” — Shame and Embracing Difference

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Breathe by Anna Vanes ©

Shame and self-loathing can follow someone suffering social anxiety down every path. When a fear is faced, no matter how successfully, if anxiety was prominent and present, the moment can feel tainted and unsuccessful – and, even, a source of shame. If the task is, on the other hand, avoided, out of fear, shame and self-criticism will likely be present.

In the blog-post linked below, mental health advocate and social anxiety symptom sufferer, Sara, gives a personal example of this dilemma of fear and shame. Rather than experience the fear and vulnerability of calling a taxi or requesting a lift from a co-worker from work to her home, she opted to walk the 4.5 miles route for the first time.

Her self-loathing at her choice started during her walk: “wow, my social anxiety is so bad that I couldn’t ask a coworker to drive me nor could I order a taxi or rideshare service. What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I such a broken person?”

Once home, she writes: “…I felt so alone. I started to cry and I emailed my therapist to tell him what happened and that I was going to make light of it because that’s who I am, so I wanted him to know in the moment what I really felt about my walk. Then I took a shower and put on my pajamas, and started making light of my experience.”

The fear of feeling vulnerable socially and risking being hurt is exchanged for avoiding the fear and feeling humiliated in private. The socially anxious symptom sufferer may be faced all day, every day, with this painful dilemma.

Therapists advise patients to expose themselves to anxiety by resisting so-called “safety behaviours” and testing oneself. Yet, where anxiety is high and debilitating, avoidance and the predictable self-loathing can feel preferable.

The writer chose to share her experience with her therapist and then to make light of the incident. She also shared it with her husband when he got home from work. Her shame and self-loathing seems to have been at least temporarily alleviated through this process – which included the self-care of having a shower and changing into pajamas.

Disabled people are under pressure to conform to “competency” and “reliability” standards set for more able-bodied peers by work and economic pressures. Also, as blogger, Independence Chick, points out, disabled people are often celebrated for “defying” their illness or disability.

Falling below such unrealistic and unfair standards contributes to a sense of failure and shame. For disabled people and people suffering from illnesses, it is important to remind themselves of their difference in order to try and reduce the pressure of expectation which governs so much of their lives. Sympathetic and supportive peers may help reduce the shame in a social anxiety symptom sufferer’s daily life. With greater knowledge of one’s difficulties and reduction in expectations – failures can be embraced and, even, laughed at.

What are some of the more extreme things you have done because of your mental illness? In reference to my alcoholism, this answer could get scary fast. My depression has caused suicidal ideation/attempts. My hypomania contributed to the creation of some pretty spur of the moment tattoos one day a few years ago. My social […]

via Walk Four And A Half Miles In My Shoes — Don’t Stigmatize me

Image designed by Anna Vanes.