Women’s Experiences of Social Anxiety Disorder Privileging Marginalised Perspectives and Rewriting Dominant Narratives
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While Social Anxiety Disorder’s (SAD) overrepresentation in women has begun to be recognised in recent decades, the power to define and diagnose this ‘mental health issue’ remains the exclusive domain of the medical professional. Whereas women’s own narratives have been used to both explore and reconceptualise other gendered ‘mental health issues’, such as Eating Disorders and Depression, analogous analyses have yet to be carried out vis-à-vis SAD. Performing individual, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with a modest number of women (self-)diagnosed with SAD begins to fill this critical gap. In so doing, it provides a platform on which these women can describe their experiences, define SAD for themselves, and tell us what their lives are actually like. In this paper, I showcase a sample of themes which arose in interviewing these women. I then place these into dialogue with the official psy science discourses on this diagnosis. My research thus advocates making space alongside the hitherto privileged perspectives of medical professionals, and the psy sciences, for the experiences and viewpoints of women (self-)diagnosed with SAD themselves. Ultimately, I show that listening to these women’s voices problematises hegemonic discourses on women’s ‘madness’; offers new ways of understanding the socially anxious woman’s experience; and has the potential to reconceptualise this ‘mental health issue’ in women.
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