Emotions, Appraisal, and Status: The Case of Social Anxiety Disorder

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This paper argues that the contemporary phenomenon of social anxiety disorder should be explained in relation to intensified forms of social appraisal in late modern societies. Drawing on sociological literature on selfhood and interaction (Honneth 1995; Mead and Morris 1934; Turner 1988), the paper assumes that social interaction offers potential recognition of the actors’ self-conception, whether positive or negative in form (Burke and Stets 2009:52; Rosenberg 1979). Anxiety can be understood as a basic aspect of this process, since positive recognition is never guaranteed in interaction. Given that the anticipation and experience of social appraisal provokes patterned emotional reactions (Scherer, Schorr and Johnstone 2001), extreme and debilitating forms of anxiety might be expected, particularly in highly complex societies where appraisal situations have intensified. Those with lower social status, for example associated with inequalities of gender, tend to secure lower levels of positive recognition, in ways that influence further interaction expectations. Interaction motivations and adjustive responses in the agent’s self-conception can consequently work to significantly heighten anxiety, in ways that reduce self-esteem and a belief in one’s self as a competent social actor.

Two sites of intensified social appraisal are considered: online social networking and employment. The paper argues that Rosa’s diagnosis of social acceleration can be employed in developing a sociological explanation of the contemporary phenomenon of social anxiety disorder, and suggest ways in which this diagnosis may have gained prominence as a possible source of refuge from the normative demands of an accelerating social world.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - Aug 2017
EventEuropean Sociological Association: (Un)Making Europe: Capitalism, Solidarities, Subjectivities - Athens, Greece
Duration: 29 Aug 201701 Sep 2017
Conference number: 13


ConferenceEuropean Sociological Association
Abbreviated titleESA 13th Conference
Internet address


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