Social anxiety disorder among White Americans

The health disparity I chose is social anxiety disorder.  I chose this because I have experience with it in my family. The bars on the far left represent social anxiety disorder.

According to the Mayo Clinic, social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental health condition in which everyday interactions cause irrational anxiety, fear, self-consciousness, and embarrassment.  This disorder has psychological symptoms like fear, avoiding situations, worry, etc., and physical symptoms like increased heart rate, nausea, muscle tension, etc.  While most people experience this from time to time like when giving a big presentation, for example, social anxiety disorder is chronic and the affected person knows that their feelings are irrational.  Like many other mental health cases, the cause of social anxiety disorder is not simple.  It is the result of both genetics and environmental experiences.  Treatment plans often include counseling, SSRIs, and learning techniques to control stress.  These are often done in combination, though not all are needed.

It has often been seen in the past that anxiety disorders are less common in minority groups.  According to Asnaani et al.  “Several studies have noted the differences between levels of anxiety in communities aligning themselves with more collectivistic values, where focus on maintaining harmony within the group is of the highest priority, as compared to those adhering the more individualistic cultural attitudes, where individual achievement are most highly valued and rewarded by the rest of the social group.” Breslau et al. suggests that ethnic identification and religious participation may be protective factors that could explain the lower risk of psychiatric disorders in general.  Like most psychiatric disorders, social anxiety disorder is very complex and it will take a lot of research to understand the differences in prevalence rates.

The relationship between race, genetics, and health is complex and often misunderstood.  In the past it was believed that different races were actually different species.  This is not a popular theory today but it is often assumed that there are distinct genetic differences between races.  This is leading to the racialization of medicine.  One example of this is the heart drug Bidil, which was advertized as being specifically for African Americans.  The research on this is questionable as to how they proved its increased efficacy in African Americans compared to other races.  There are several other non-genetic factors that can cause health disparities, which have trends along socially constructed racial lines.  These include socio-economic status, education, income, wealth, and neighborhood.  These socially constructed racial lines are often confused with “genetic racial lines”.

JOSHUA BRESLAU, SERGIO AGUILAR-GAXIOLA, KENNETH S. KENDLER, MAXWELL SU, DAVID WILLIAMS and RONALD C. KESSLER (2006). Specifying race-ethnic differences in risk for psychiatric disorder in a USA national sample. Psychological Medicine, 36 , pp 57-68 doi:10.1017/S0033291705006161

ANU ASNAANI, J. ANTHONY RICHEY, RUTA DIMAITE, DEVON E. HINTON, and STEFAN G. HOFMANN (2010). A cross-ethnic comparison of lifetime prevalence rates of anxiety disorders. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198, pp 551-555 doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181ea169f

2 thoughts on “Social anxiety disorder among White Americans

  1. I really enjoyed that you chose to post about a mental health condition, I often feel like mental health can be over-looked when in all actuality many people suffer from some type of mental health condition or know someone who has one. One of my good friends from high school actually suffered from anxiety, when you spoke to her you could just see how crippling this disorder can be and how it really does affect your day-to-day life. Mental conditions are so complex that it is often hard to decipher the cause of such a disorder. Yes it can run in families and can be genetic but it can also arise from ones environment. I actually did not know this could be a genetic disorder until I met my friend who had it, which makes me realize just how important it is to shed light on different mental conditions. One thing that is really interesting is that there are several approaches for treatment, medicine isn’t always the go-to, and it can take a lot of therapy and different techniques. I have never considered the fact that social anxiety disorder could be more prevalent in one race than the other. I suppose this makes sense because some races may practice different religions and belong to different cultures resulting in a lower risk of psychiatric disorders.

  2. I thought your post was very interesting, seeing as you looked into a mental health disparity rather than a physical one. Pretty much all of my middle class white American family display generalized anxiety and I had never really considered why. You suggested that it could be due to the individualistic ways of the American culture. This is something I had never really considered in the past, but makes sense. If pressure were put on the achievements of the individual, rather than something larger (like a family), then that individual would more likely feel stress and self-blame.

    As we have learned in class, the relationship between “race” and health disparities shows a strong correlation, however, we should be cautious to remember the real factors affecting the illness. Instead of using race as a causal determinant of a health disparity, we should consider environmental, social and economic factors that are the TRUE cause of the health disparity. It could be compared to obesity in the United States. Obesity itself directly to blame for health disparities, but instead, all the factors that lead to obesity are the blame. However, due to the ability to physically see obesity, conclusions are drawn by simply looking at a person (an obese person is assumed to have high cholesterol or hypertension). Although obesity, like race, can be linked and correlated to certain health disparities, it should not be viewed as a direct causal relationship.

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