While the easing of state restrictions is great news for some, people with social anxiety are nervous about the return to normal life. (Image source: Probono Australia)
By Lauren Wisgard | @LaurenWisgard
COVID-19 has been a welcome break for social anxiety sufferers, according to an expert psychologist in the field, but as normality resumes patients are concerned for their mental health.
Dr Nicole Manktelow, a clinical psychologist at Rose Park Psychology, said some of her patients with social anxiety disorder are “terrified” to return back to the normal pressures of social contexts.
“People with social anxiety disorder really fear being judged in some kind of negative way, they fear that they are going to embarrass themselves, or … they’re going to draw attention to themselves that’s really unwanted and makes them feel awful,” Dr Manktelow said.
Dr Manktelow said the COVID-19 isolation has been a lot easier for patients than regular life, and the fear of returning to normality has seen an increase in referrals to the clinic.
“There’s an increase in referrals because suddenly life’s been feeling a little more comfortable but it’s going to return to normal and that’s really triggering and upsetting for a lot of people,” Dr Manktelow said.
“A lot of their usual pressures or triggers that would really aggravate their anxiety just aren’t there cause they’re not having to go out and contend with the world in quite the same way.”
Claire Coleman, the Community Engagement Officer of Stakeholder Support at Headspace Adelaide said it’s really important to reach out and have a conversation with someone if you are struggling with social anxiety.
“We are in a time which is new and interesting for everyone and so we might all be coping in different ways and so just reaching out to someone and starting that conversation is really important,” Ms Coleman said.
Ms Coleman said the Headspace centre offers a holistic approach to treating anxiety for anyone aged 25 years and younger.
“We talk about it as a holistic approach because we have different ways that a young person can access support … the concept being you have your mental health but there’s also a lot of other things that could be going on at that time and people might benefit from getting help in different ways,” Ms Coleman said.
Headspace focuses on early intervention for mental health disorders such as social anxiety, as many people first develop symptoms under the age of 25.
“With youth it’s an important area of development for a lot of people and a lot of people will experience one of their first episodes of mental health concern during that age,” Ms Coleman said.
“We’re all about early intervention, so the idea being that if you get in early when there’s a few symptoms or something’s not feeling quite right and you learn those coping strategies, they might have … better outcomes for their mental health in the long term.”
If you or anyone you know is struggling with social anxiety you can contact Headspace Adelaide on 1800 063 267 or by completing an online referral form, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.