Social anxiety is a contemporary mental health issue in society. It is the fear of social/performance situations in which individuals perceive themselves to be under the scrutiny of others. It is not simply about shyness. For someone with high levels of social anxiety, these situations are commonly avoided, or, braved under intense distress.
Most people will experience social anxiety from time to time, but for some, this experience is so intense and unrelenting, it results in the considerable impediment of their everyday lives and the need for professional support.
While international studies conducted in the Netherlands and the US have demonstrated elevated rates of social anxiety in sexual minority individuals, we do not know much about the Irish context.
Whilst, up until now there have been no Irish studies dedicated to this particular issue, we do not have to look too far into the past for a reminder that mental health difficulties remain abundant in our community.
The findings of the LGBTIreland Report, published in 2016, clearly communicated this message; the prevalence of severe generalised anxiety and depression, both closely related to social anxiety, were alarmingly high.
Notably, the data collection period for this study partially coincided with the lead-up to Marriage Equality Referendum, an exceptionally stressful time for all sexual minorities. Nevertheless, these findings were a clear indication that more mental health research focusing on Irish sexual minorities is required.
To address this gap, the Irish Research Council have recently funded a project at Dublin City University – Anxiety in Sexual Minorities Study. Our research team aims to advance knowledge pertaining to social anxiety in sexual minorities and answer important questions such as “What sexual minority sub-groups are most at risk for experiencing high levels of social anxiety?” and “What factors contribute to this phenomenon in 2018 Ireland”.
“Ultimately, when communicated to relevant mental health professionals, we hope this information will help them to support sexual minority clients with high levels of social anxiety.
“Currently, we are carrying out an online survey, that takes roughly 30 minutes to complete and can be accessed below. It is important that we hear from sexual minority individuals with different levels of anxiety, whether they are low or high.”
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