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Brits experiencing social anxiety at Christmas

Friday, 18 December 2015 Mind

One in four adults in the UK feel anxious about social gatherings during the festive period. Nearly a fifth (19%) have pretended to be sick to get out of staff Christmas parties.

The findings, released by mental health charity Mind, come as the UK prepares for the biggest night for staff Christmas parties.

Mind’s poll1 of more than 2,000 adults, conducted by Populus, found that while one third (31%) of workers enjoy meeting up with colleagues outside a working environment more than a quarter (27%) admit that they feel under pressure to participate in, and attend, work events during the festive period.

A significant number of workers make up excuses to get out of attending staff functions over the festive period. One in ten (10%) pretend that they cannot find childcare when staff parties are taking place while a similar number (11%) have said that they would meet colleagues at events only to not show up. One in 20 (6%) admit that they have pretended to get lost en route to get out of attending staff events taking place in the run up to Christmas.

Of those who do make it to Christmas lunches and parties, one in five (22%) admit that they pretend to enjoy themselves, increasing to one quarter for women (25%) and decreasing to less than one in five for men (18%). The likelihood of enjoying getting involved in such events decreases with age; 32% for 25-34 year olds and 15% for those aged over 65.

Respondents reported Christmas is a tough time of year, with one fifth (20%) admitting they have felt lonely during the festive period. More than one in ten (13%) say they have had problems sleeping while nearly one in five (18%) people drink more alcohol than usual to cope with the pressure of Christmas. The poll also found that one in twenty (6%) take antidepressants to deal with the pressure directly associated with the festive period.

Rachel Boyd, Information Manager at Mind says: “Coping with social anxiety can be difficult at any time of year but at Christmas there are extra events and demands that leave you feeling even worse than usual. The pressure to feel on good form and join in at work when everyone around you seems to be having fun can have an effect on both the body and the mind. Physical symptoms can include increased heart rate, muscle tension, dizziness, difficulty breathing, sweating, shaking and feeling sick.

“Psychological symptoms include feeling that people are negatively judging you, being on edge and more sensitive to sounds and sights and wanting to run away or escape from the situation. For some people, anxiety becomes so overwhelming that it takes over their lives. Some may develop a phobia about going out and about, or may withdraw from contact with people, even their family and friends.

“It’s key not to take too much on and to be honest with people close to you if you are finding it difficult to cope. Keeping anxiety bottled up can make things worse so find someone you can confide in and let them know that you need some support. If you aren’t in contact with family or friends there are lots of other forms of support, either through local community groups or online through peer support communities like our site Elefriends.

“If you have a friend or relative who experiences high levels of anxiety, it’s important that you encourage them to seek help. If this makes them anxious in itself, then offer to support them with this, such as going to the GP with them or contacting a local support service on their behalf.”


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