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Social phobia web communities: the downsides

Posted Oct 04 2009 11:13pm


Normally, a website aimed at people with a particular illness will help people get a deeper understanding of their own problems through interaction with others who suffer from the same problems. It also induces a sense of belonging, letting people know that they are not alone in their struggle.

I am a long-time member of a forum where people with social phobia (and, as a bonus feature, Hyperhidrosis ) can share experiences, make new friends and discuss their problems. The posts vary from journals to discussions about music to a diverse list of "miracle cures" for social phobia. There are obvious benefits to a site like this, but I am going to address the downsides.

The reason I almost never visit the site anymore is the whining. For every person who has an uplifting story, an open heart and perhaps even a cure for social phobia, there are ten people who tell of nothing but the pain and misery they experience because of their disorder. What's more, they all seem to accept that that's the way things are supposed to be. I feel sorry for them, but I feel even more sorry for the people who read their post and get the impression that their own lives are in danger of coming apart as well. Whining is highly contagious. When most of the topics around you have a general message of 'My life is rubbish, but I accept that', it will get to you sooner or later. It definitely did in my case, and I am convinced that even the biggest optimist might get a chink in their armor from visiting your average SAD forum. The few positive members are outnumbered ten to one by the ones who've simply stopped caring. In my time on forum sites I have learned how much it really takes to change another person's views on a subject. Trying to cheer up someone you've never met before and whom you do not know personally, is virtually impossible, and it becomes even more difficult when the person suffers from social phobia.

The SAD forum plays a different role in each person's life. Some see it as a source of security and fellowship, which I also do. But to a much greater degree it is a shrine to pain and misery. It invites the whiners to drop by and unload their misery on the other members. Whining is terrifyingly easy compared to many other things, and SA people generally love to whine.

Many of the people in the aforementioned forum don't even get treatment, and many take pills to stay afloat without any hope of recovery. There is hope, but it's much too easy to lose sight of it when you're surrounded by people who focus more on their pain than the cure for it.

The alternative
is a forum strictly devoted to therapy and recovery, with a ban on demoralizing entries. It might sound like a fascist way to run a forum, but an SA recovery forum wouldn't be about democracy to start with.

I'm not asking anyone to leave the existing communities. First and foremost I want you to consider that they will, under certain circumstances, do more harm than good.

A little something about maltreatment
This is the original reason for me making this post. The only cure for social anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is my opinion, and I stand by it because I give a damn. If you are receiving therapy from a psychiatrist, you have to make his/her advice the Bible of your recovery. If you come across a "miracle cure" on a forum, be sure to make out how it relates to the therapy you're already in. If it doesn't correspond, disregard the forum post and listen to the professionals. Your life may depend on it.

Blue

Currently reading:The Gunslinger by Stephen King
Currently listening to: Panic! At The Disco - London Beckoned Songs About Money Written By Machines (phew!)
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