An individual with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) possesses extreme fear in regards to social situations. This fear can be so profound that the individual can no longer function to full capacity in their daily life. A large portion of this fear stems from the stigma created by the disorder. In his book, Stigma, Erving Goffman defines it as “an attribute that his deeply discrediting” (Goffman 3). Those who are stigmatized, who possess a stigma, must avoid ostracization by taking focus off of their stigmatizing attribute, which can blemish their image as a whole. This is difficult for someone with SAD, who is predisposed to become extremely self-conscious about their condition when introduced to a social situation.
Enter David – a middle-aged, lower-class husband and father of one. Raised by authoritarian parents and being no stranger to schoolyard bullying, David had a childhood fraught with feelings of inferiority. Seizures and other similar episodes made their mark on David from his earliest years and seemed to foreshadow of life of mental instability; although nothing but denials of mental illness were made at the time. These episodes became less frequent as David grew into early adulthood, and the episodes of his earlier years seemed like distant history. Then at the age of thirty-nine, while out on a typical neighborhood stroll, he suffered his first panic attack, starting a growing trend of panic attacks that has continued through the present day. That event set into motion the gears of his SAD, culminating in the panic attack he suffered at the manufacturing plant where he had worked for mu...
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...den stigma ended up costing him his job. Now that David accepts his mental disorder and takes medication, he reports that normals in mixed contact situations treat him better now. Therefore, the reactions normals have toward David depend on how self-conscious he is; the more he is, the more his behavior will reflect that, and thus the more abnormal he will seem to normals.
Social Anxiety Disorder causes an individual to become extremely self-conscious about how people see them. These individuals are discreditable, and thus their stigmatizing disorder can be hidden from others. However, hiding the stigma internalizes feelings of shame and inferiority and can be detrimental to the well-being of the SAD-inflicted individual. Such is the case of David, who lost his career to the disorder he never wanted to believe that he had, but now he has no choice but to accept it.
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