Lower Social Anxiety is Associated with Mindfulness in Nepalese Adolescents
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“At the basic level, social anxiety refers to fear or worry related to interactions in social situations. It is normal for teens to get anxious about public speaking or going on a first date. However, for those with social anxiety, the fears and thoughts are too intense, cause high stress and make the person avoid activities of daily living that could bring joy into their life.” – Silvina Galperin
It is a common human phenomenon that being in a social situation can be stressful and anxiety producing. Most people can deal with the anxiety and can become quite comfortable. But many do not cope well and the anxiety is overwhelming, causing the individual to withdraw. Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and feeling embarrassed or humiliated by their actions. This fear may be so severe that it interferes with work, school, and other activities and may negatively affect the person’s ability to form relationships.
Anxiety disorders have generally been treated with drugs. But there are considerable side effects and these drugs are often abused. There are a number of psychological therapies for anxiety. But, about 45% of the patients treated do not respond to the therapy. So, there is a need to develop alternative treatments. Recently, it has been found that mindfulness training can be effective for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD).
Mindfulness training was examined as a treatment for emotional disorders in affluent western populations which are not necessarily representative of the unique situations, cultures, and education levels of diverse populations. Hence, there is a need to investigate the effectiveness of mindfulness with diverse populations. There are indications that mindfulness therapies may be effective in diverse populations. But there is a need for further investigation the associations of mindfulness with emotional disorders in different populations.
In today’s Research News article “Social support, emotion regulation and mindfulness: A linkage towards social anxiety among adolescents attending secondary schools in Birgunj, Nepal.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7117668/), Singh and colleagues recruited adolescents from schools in Nepal and measured them for social anxiety, social support, emotion regulation, and mindfulness.
They found that the higher the levels of social anxiety the lower the levels of the mindfulness facets of describing and acting with awareness, the emotion regulation facets of awareness, clarity, and acceptance, and social support especially from friends, relatives, and teachers. They also found that social anxiety levels were higher in females and older adolescents. Taken together, mindfulness, emotion regulation, social support, age, and gender explained 41% of the variance in social anxiety in the adolescents.
These results are correlational and as such causation cannot be determined. The results also are similar to those observed in different ethnic groups with mindfulness associated with lower levels of social anxiety and greater levels of emotion regulation. This further suggests that mindfulness relationships with social anxiety in Nepal are similar to other cultures. This suggests that these association apply almost universally across cultures and ethnicities.
In many of the previous studies, mindfulness was trained and it was found to cause changes in social anxiety and emotion regulation. So, the current findings probably represent causal connections between these variables. They further imply that training in mindfulness may be helpful in lowering social anxiety and improving emotion regulation in Nepalese youth.
In the present study there was no attempt to determine mediation. Since mindfulness is associated with higher levels of emotion regulation and emotion regulation is associated with lower levels of social anxiety, it is possible that mindfulness decreases social anxiety directly and also indirectly by improving emotion regulation. In addition, social support is associated with higher mindfulness. So, it is possible that social support decreases social anxiety directly and also indirectly by improving mindfulness. It will remain for future research to explore these hypotheses.
So, lower social anxiety is associated with mindfulness in Nepalese adolescents.
“If you are suffering with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD), regular practice will eventually improve your self-concept and ability to handle negative emotions. You will also learn how to better respond to troubling thoughts and treat yourself with more compassion.” – Arlin Cuncic
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch
Singh, R., Singh, B., Mahato, S., & Hambour, V. K. (2020). Social support, emotion regulation and mindfulness: A linkage towards social anxiety among adolescents attending secondary schools in Birgunj, Nepal. PloS one, 15(4), e0230991. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230991
There has been a growing burden of anxiety among Nepalese adolescents. Social anxiety in particular is one of the commonly reported symptoms indicating mental health problem among adolescents. The purpose of this study was to assess social anxiety, and identify how social support, emotion regulation and mindfulness uniquely contribute to social anxiety among adolescents in Birgunj, Nepal. The study was conducted by using a self-administered questionnaire among 384 adolescents (65.4% boys; M = 16.05 years, SD = 1.39) studying at secondary schools of Birgunj. Results show that there was a positive correlation between social anxiety symptoms and age, and girls reported more symptoms. Traits such as non-acceptance of emotions, lack of clarity and lack of awareness of emotions were related to increased social anxiety; while acting with awareness, non-reactivity, and better ability to describe emotions was related to decreased social anxiety. Finally, more social support from close friends was related to lower social anxiety. These results suggest that improving emotion regulation, dispositional mindfulness, and social support may be helpful for adolescents who are at risk of, or are suffering from, social anxiety.