Is social anxiety a hidden disability for university students?
(Medical Xpress) -- Students are often expected to speak knowledgably in front of groups of unfamiliar people as part of their education. The assessment of student presentations contributes to degree grading, and employers expect good interpersonal skills from graduates.
But in a number of cases, these uncomfortable symptoms may be more than a natural reaction to stress people who seriously doubt their ability to impress colleagues may develop 'social anxiety', a marked fear of social or performance situations.
Psychologists Phil Topham from UWE Bristol and Graham Russell from the University of Plymouth have investigated social anxiety in higher education. They believe that while transient anxieties arise in most students, in response to the social performance challenges of university learning, there is a significant minority for whom these anxieties lead to persistent, distressing anxiety and reduced engagement with learning.
Phil and Graham's research, recently published in The Psychologist, asks: What is the impact of social anxiety on learning? and How might academic staff recognise social anxiety in their students?
Phil says, An estimated 10 percent of university students experience significant social anxiety.
In our survey of over 1500 students at two Universities, self-selecting participants reported frequent anxiety in learning situations that involved interacting with students and staff. Among the findings was that these students habitually avoided learning situations like lectures and presentations by being absent or not participating. Some will even opt out of selecting modules that contain an element of presentation. The top two situations such students avoid are presentations and seminars.
The aim of the survey was to find out about the impact of social anxiety. One interpretation of the findings is that socially anxious students could be missing out on learning opportunities and may be distracted from attending to academic information by excessively focussing on their anxieties.
Another interpretation is that anxiety is intrinsic to the process of learning, whereby overcoming academic challenges builds confidence and fears of social evaluation recede. This view holds that by staff over-focussing on anxiety and other emotions, this risks turning education into a therapeutic activity that diminishes rather than enhances the learner's sense of self.
We believe that while it is developmentally unhelpful to treat students as unduly fragile, it is crucial to balance academic challenges with support.
The researchers also looked at students' views of the support available to them in universities. Despite higher education institutions allocating considerable resources for this, students may feel reluctant to seek professional help due to a fear of being stigmatised, and may experience conflict between wanting help and fearing to expose perceived inadequacies.
So what is the best option for supporting students?
Phil and Graham conclude that the needs of students with persistent, troubling social anxiety fall between educational and psychological solutions. They believe that there are low-cost options for supporting socially anxious students and that these could be adopted within current structures for staff training and student support.
· Helping students get to know each other
· Sensitive appreciation of the shame and conflict caused in students by the desire to succeed and the fear of failure
· Staff and students working together to distinguish between anxieties that need academic support and deep-rooted concerns about self that may need specialist help
· Those with dedicated support roles advisers and counsellors should routinely ask student clients how they are coping with the demands of their learning to disentangle developmental from dysfunctional anxieties
· Not singling out students for questioning in lectures or setting assessed presentations in their first term
· Tutors should encourage student groups to practise presentations and accept a degree of discomfort in so doing, while discreetly supporting persistently anxious students
They conclude that it does not turn education into therapy if tutors encourage students to reflect on their fears about social evaluation in learning, and help them to explore their concerns with trusted colleagues.
Provided by University of the West of England
- How courage can help students learn and achieve Aug 19, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Surgery on toy animals lessens anxiety of veterinary students Nov 15, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Face-to-face or Facebook? May 12, 2008 | not rated yet | 0
- Research finds children with social phobia are judged less attractive Feb 07, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Social learning: Can Facebook and related tools improve educational outcomes? May 09, 2011 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Pressure-volume curve: Elastic Recoil Pressure don't make sense
May 18, 2013 From pressure-volume curve of the lung and chest wall (attached photo), I don't understand why would the elastic recoil pressure of the lung is...
If you became brain-dead, would you want them to pull the plug?
May 17, 2013 I'd want the rest of me to stay alive. Sure it's a lousy way to live but it beats being all-the-way dead. Maybe if I make it 20 years they'll...
MRI bill question
May 15, 2013 Dear PFers, The hospital gave us a $12k bill for one MRI (head with contrast). The people I talked to at the hospital tell me that they do not...
Ratio of Hydrogen of Oxygen in Dessicated Animal Protein
May 13, 2013 As an experiment, for the past few months I've been consuming at least one portion of Jell-O or unflavored Knox gelatin per day. I'm 64, in very...
Alcohol and acetaminophen
May 13, 2013 Edit: sorry for the typo in the title , can't edit I looked around on google quite a bit and it's very hard to find precise information on the...
Marie Curie's leukemia
May 13, 2013 Does anyone know what might be the cause of Marie Curie's cancer
- More from Physics Forums - Medical Sciences
More news stories
A Mediterranean diet with added extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts seems to improve the brain power of older people better than advising them to follow a low-fat diet, indicates research published online in the Journal of ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
More people are being diagnosed with eating disorders every year and the most common type is not either of the two most well known—bulimia or anorexia—but eating disorders not otherwise specified (eating disorders that ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Turns out, that old "practice makes perfect" adage may be overblown. New research led by Michigan State University's Zach Hambrick finds that a copious amount of practice is not enough to explain why people ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 7 hours ago | 3.3 / 5 (10) | 0 |
(Medical Xpress)—Individuals who learn two languages at an early age seem to switch back and forth between separate "sound systems" for each language, according to new research conducted at the University of Arizona.
Psychology & Psychiatry 9 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 0 |
Video games that pit players against human-looking characters may be more likely to provoke violent thoughts and words than games where monstrous creatures are the enemy, according to a new study by researchers ...
Psychology & Psychiatry 9 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Early-life exposure to traffic-related air pollution was significantly associated with higher hyperactivity scores at age 7, according to new research from the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Cincinnati Children's Hospital ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0 |
Bacteria resistant to the antibiotic colistin are also commonly resistant to antimicrobial substances made by the human body, according to a study in mBio, the online open-access journal of the American Society for Microb ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—A research team, led by Jeremy Barr, a biology post-doctoral fellow, unveils a new immune system that protects humans and animals from infection.
6 hours ago | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 2 |
New research suggests that a compound abundant in the Mediterranean diet takes away cancer cells' "superpower" to escape death. By altering a very specific step in gene regulation, this compound essentially re-educates cancer ...
9 hours ago | 4.8 / 5 (9) | 2 |
Researchers have pinpointed a catalytic trigger for the onset of Alzheimer's disease – when the fundamental structure of a protein molecule changes to cause a chain reaction that leads to the death of neurons ...
10 hours ago | 5 / 5 (3) | 0 |
Salamanders' immune systems are key to their remarkable ability to regrow limbs, and could also underpin their ability to regenerate spinal cords, brain tissue and even parts of their hearts, scientists have ...
10 hours ago | 5 / 5 (4) | 2 |