Putting the 'Social' in 'Social Anxiety Disorder': Exploring Women's Experiences from a Feminist and Anti-psychiatry Perspective

Masters, Katie Mary (2021). Putting the 'Social' in 'Social Anxiety Disorder': Exploring Women's Experiences from a Feminist and Anti-psychiatry Perspective. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This work interrogates the extent to which cultural values, namely norms of femininity, are implicit in the DSM-5’s diagnosis Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). In order to do so, narratives of seven women diagnosed and/or self-diagnosed with SAD are obtained by means of individual, in-depth, semi-structured interviews. By privileging these accounts, this thesis shifts the power to define this ‘disorder’ from the medical professional to women with SAD themselves, and serves to illuminate the socially anxious woman’s experience.

Participants’ testimonies are placed into dialogue with DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for SAD and associated ‘co-morbidities’ and the resulting interchange is viewed from a perspective informed by anti-psychiatry, feminism, and feminist science studies. In this way, the diagnosis and treatment of women with SAD is problematised, and, more broadly, psychiatry’s position as an authority discourse on (women’s) ‘madness’ is called into question.

Given participants’ discussions of the effects upon them of external structural sexism and norms of femininity in their containing culture, this thesis theorises women’s SAD as a ‘culture-bound syndrome’. Moreover, in the spirit of the anti-psychiatrists, I ask whether these women’s social anxiety is not a rational response to the circumstances in which they find themselves. By focussing on the significance of social, especially gendered, external conditions, this research departs from existing work on women’s overrepresentation among those with SAD. In turn, it provides a corrective to biologically reductionist and gender biased accounts which have sought to explain this imbalance.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music, Department of Modern Languages
Funders: Other
Other Funders: University of Birmingham College of Arts and Law Doctoral Scholarship
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/11639


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