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McCarthy, Catherine (2014)
Languages: English
Types: Doctoral thesis
Introduction: Social anxiety is a common experience. For some it is a debilitating,\ud chronic difficulty, which becomes problematic during childhood and can have\ud devastating effects. Talking therapies are useful for many, particularly in reducing\ud anxiety. However, many people never access treatment and for those that do,\ud therapies do not tend to improve their quality of life, particularly their social worlds.\ud Do we need to look beyond clinical recovery measures when assessing therapeutic\ud outcomes? There has been no research that has explored personal recovery in\ud social anxiety. This thesis seeks to understand whether people with problematic\ud social anxiety experience personal recovery and if so, how.\ud Methods: A participatory action research (PAR) approach was used to develop the\ud project. People with problematic social anxiety advised on study design, data\ud collection, analysis and dissemination of the findings. 8 narratives of living with\ud problematic social anxiety were collected to explore how people negotiate social\ud anxiety and what this can tell us about personal recovery. A narrative analysis was\ud then carried out, drawing upon Frank’s (1995, 2012) dialogical narratives analysis of\ud illness stories and Adame and Hornstein’s (2006) typology of emotional distress\ud narratives.\ud Findings: The participants’ stories of living with problematic social anxiety\ud highlighted the variety of ways that people make sense of this difficulty. The types of\ud stories told were reminiscent of Frank’s (1995, 2010) illness narratives, as people\ud told stories of restitution, chaos and quest. People drew upon traditional, counter and\ud alternative mental health narratives to negotiate social anxiety, reminding us of the\ud multiple ways people can find to overcome emotional distress.\ud Discussion: The PAR study showed how people struggling with a mental health\ud difficulty can be at the centre of research which strives to better understand their\ud struggles and improve talking therapies. The study reminds us that the “social”\ud aspects of social anxiety need to be better acknowledged within therapies so that we\ud do not only focus on reducing anxiety but help people improve their relationships and\ud quality of life.
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