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Shaukat - Interview 17

Age at interview: 36
Age at diagnosis: 30
Brief Outline: Shaukat, 36, was born in Pakistan and came to the UK aged 9. He has been diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and general anxiety disorder. He finds going to support groups and talking to other people with similar experiences supportive and helpful.
Background: Administrative assistant, single. Ethnic background/nationality: Pakistani (born in Pakistan); in UK for 27 years.

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Shaukat, 36, was born in Pakistan and came to the UK aged 9. He was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and general anxiety disorder aged 30. Shaukat says he has always felt anxious, even as a child when he found it difficult to mix with other children, answer questions in class at school, and visiting family. He has always found it difficult to make friends and join in conversations because being centre of attention made him very anxious. 

As a result, he spent a lot of time on his own, reading, watching TV or doing schoolwork. Shaukat didn't enjoy university and would become ill around exam times. His anxiety makes it difficult for him to go shopping, go to launderette, eat in public, wait for bus or lift, and make conversation. His anxiety also makes him tired and affects his sleeping patterns. He became depressed because he couldn't get a job when he left university; he felt he didn't have social skills to pass interviews, had no social life, and spent all his time applying for jobs. When in work, he found it difficult to cope with working 9am to 5pm and meeting deadlines.

Shaukat says that in his culture there is an expectation that you attend weddings and family occasions and he finds this very hard' he says his family don't understand him and he can't explain how he feels to them. This is particularly difficult because his family have been asking him about his plans to marry.

Shaukat finds it difficult to explain his feelings and experiences to other people' avoided telling his boss at work about his anxiety, and found it difficult to explain how he felt to his GP. As a result, he was prescribed medication that didn't work and he eventually lost his job because he had had so much sick leave. Shaukat has lost 3 jobs in total. 

Shaukat decided to take proper break from work and did voluntary work teaching basic skills. He began reading self help books to try to find out what was wrong' he says he didn't suspect he had an illness. He contacted the National Phobic Society, read other people's stories and went to a support group. This led him to diagnose himself with social anxiety and general anxiety disorder. He continued going to these groups to find out what helped other people, and has been going for 5 years. Shaukat finds it helpful to talk to the other people at these groups and to learn from them, especially because they understand. He says these people are more helpful than professionals.

Shaukat has tried counselling, antidepressants, stress management techniques, and hypnotherapy but none of them helped the social anxiety. He has been in therapy for 3 years, and says this helped at first, but doesn't help any more. Shaukat asked his GP to refer him for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and this helped him to understand his anxiety. 

Shaukat says he has been able to keep his current job of 6 years because he is able to work flexible hours and his manager knows all about his anxiety. He says he has learnt from experience that he doesn't need to worry about some things. Although things have been difficult for Shaukat, he says he kept on trying and didn't give up. He thinks it's important to have determination and a belief that his anxiety will get better.

 

Shaukat says racism did not contribute to his anxiety, although he was attacked.

Shaukat says racism did not contribute to his anxiety, although he was attacked.

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Because it was in a park that I got attacked and whatever and I'd be anxious about walking through that park on my own again, for a while But, you know, nothing more. You know, I, I would still go to the same places I used to go. I used, I'd still go to the same school, same class and I knew the people, well a lot of the people that were, you know, racist. A lot of them would be in my class as well and I knew who the people were. I mean, not the ones that attacked me but their friends. And so, I mean, all the people that were like that, would usually hang out in a group together. But, you know, that wasn't a major thing for me then. 

And the other thing was that I wasn't always picked on as well, in, in my class. Apart from those times or some, you know, verbal abuse or whatever about, you know, being Asians or whatever, there was always something else that, you know, these people could pick on. So I wasn't always the one that was getting picked on, so it wasn't, that wasn't a major thing. I was more anxious about not having any friends than being picked on. Because when I did that, I just sort of used to ignore it anyway. Well, you know, I'd get angry, but mainly at myself for not, you know, saying anything back. But then I knew that I hadn't got any friends so, you know, if I do get into a fight or something then, you know, I'd get jumped on by a few people. So, you know, I was scared of that So, yeah, it was, it was a, you know, the idea of like being anxious or being, you know, not having friends that was always, you know, more stronger than sort of the, the thing about getting abused.

 

Shaukat's always found it difficult to make friends and social situations such as family weddings...

Shaukat's always found it difficult to make friends and social situations such as family weddings...

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And it always felt difficult to make, make friends as well. So it just stayed like that for, you know, for like so many years I think up to like when I was 18, from seven. Didn't have any friends, I didn't really enjoy doing what I'd do, you know, I couldn't I hated like holidays because there was no, you know, sort of things to do because I didn't have anybody to go with that way. I used to enjoy sort of, well now, I used to enjoy going to school because it was something to do.

But then when I was there, you know, I didn't actually enjoy it. So, everything was like a chore. You know, I, I'd go there because I felt, you know, I'd be at school I'd be with people or I'd be with family that I didn't really get on with much on weekends, and the visiting relatives and things like that. And it, it took a long time to, don't know, say to adjust to that kind of, I knew in, in my mind as well that, you know, from people's reaction, my family's and that, that I knew they didn't understand me or they didn't realise what was happening. So I just, you know, I did, kind of got used to spending a lot of time on my own, say like if I wasn't at the library or at home doing my work I might go into town, go to the shops but mostly it'd be on own, on my own. 

I might meet somebody from school or, you know, relative in town but that I found that really hard because I didn't have the confidence, I didn't know what to talk to them about if I saw them, so I'd, sometimes I'd avoid them. You know, like, if I'd see somebody coming I'd, you know, either cross the road or go into a shop or and , you know, just found it really hard to do any sort of talking like that, you know, on the spot.

On the other hand I was like, in a way like forced as well to go, well not forced but sort of it's the cultural thing like, you know, with weddings and things it was like every, every time there was a family wedding you had to be there. And I'd find it hard really being there with lots of people and my appetite used to go all the time. I didn't really eat much a lot of the time I found it difficult eating, quite a lot of places. I mean, I couldn't force to myself to go say to the wedding or restaurants where they, if my family went or my cousins went, I might go with them sometimes but I wouldn't eat much and I wouldn't say much during the meals and things. 

 Sometimes I'd, you know, feel physically sick because I'd, so like that kind of thing, you know, I knew that I didn't , you know, I didn't fit in. But, on the other, I just kind of blamed myself as well because I thought oh it was just me, you know, I can break out of it or, if I do more things I'd learn about it. And I was expecting to, like you know, sort of collapse one day with this, you know, with the anxiety and stuff but it never happened.

It never, you know, it's like, so I'd always manage to sort of always, well I get through situations like the, you know, exams and things. I found them quite difficult and even though I was good at , you know, did well in them, in my school and initially I just always anxious about you know, how well I'm going to do or how badly I'm going to do. So I was always constantly worried about them. But the sort of fears never materialised so I just thought, you know, I'm just going to either get better or just going to collapse and that's how people will realise, you know, there's something wrong. But nobody really seemed to notice because I think I'd been like that for so many years that people just, you know, thought it was just me.

 

Shaukat says it would help his social anxiety if he had more opportunity to practice being in...

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Shaukat says it would help his social anxiety if he had more opportunity to practice being in...

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But I think the next stage was like trying to replace those thoughts with other things and with the therapy it didn't really, it didn't really do well in that side because I think the actual things I did with the therapist we we're just inside indoors we didn't actually go into the situations where I was, you know, fearful and that. Sort of do that. And I heard other people that have done that, you know, from the groups I was going to that they'd been out in the situations they feared with their therapist and, you know, sort of conquered them in a way. And I thought that would have helped. But he, you know, the therapist I had been to didn't really do that'

And I think that's one of the things that takes a lot longer to, you know, break out of these sort of anxiety inner feelings of, which come with come social anxiety. Because you don't have somebody that, you know, a therapist who is there every day when you're facing the situations and you don't have a structure to how you can break out of them. and that's what makes it, prolongs it. I mean the example of really about how me making, you know, the making teas at work or whatever, I've been there five years and I've not attempted to do it whereas if I had somebody there or even if my manager said, 'Oh, I'll go with you and do this and, you know, we'll practice it a couple of times,' that's probably what all it would have taken for me to do that. So, sometimes, you know, it doesn't have to be sort of, you know, like a professional or a technically qualified person, you just need some sort of person who understands a bit, you know, how difficult it is and supports you and then, you know, you can learn to break that.

 

Shaukat found it difficult to sleep because he felt constantly anxious and tried hypnotherapy to...

Shaukat found it difficult to sleep because he felt constantly anxious and tried hypnotherapy to...

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I went to a hypnotherapy mainly about sleeping because at the time I wasn't, you know. I think that's probably been one of the major symptoms I have had because of all the anxieties in my mind, a lot of them are deep, but I don't know what I'm anxious about. My mind was always constantly worried about stuff and. I think a lot of it I mean when I read about it, it fits in with the sort of general anxiety disorders. And it was sort of I was always like worried all sorts of stuff from exams to family to, you know, what like teachers and what have you and what they thought about me. And, you know, like doing things in front of people I was worried about what they're thoughts were and how it sort of would affect me.

I was always so anxious that I was thinking about three, you know, levels ahead, if I was, say if I was with my cousin and I did something which I found, I thought might be embarrassing or something I was worried about what he's going to tell, who he's going to tell, how many people he knows in the school or whatever and, you know, who are they going to tell. Do they know my family or whatever? All these things these were going through my mind. And then I'd be thinking about stuff like that at night and I couldn't sleep. And then other stuff like what my family wanted , you know, because they were already asking about , you know, what I'd be doing about marriage and all that, arranged, arranged marriages and stuff and.

 

Shaukat diagnosed himself after reading about social phobia and then meeting people with...

Shaukat diagnosed himself after reading about social phobia and then meeting people with...

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And I think I read some where about the National Phobic Society. And then, you know, wrote to them and got more information. And I read some of the things in there. And then I sort of knew that I was suffering form some kind of anxiety but I didn't know what. And I saw just about, I saw, I saw sort of descriptions of how people were saying they were suffering from sort of social phobia but I didn't know what that meant. So there was other people's descriptions saying, you know, I'm suffering from this and they needed support or whatever and they were asking for sort of email contact or, you know, writing letters. So it was like a contacts list on their newsletter that I wrote off to somebody this girl in she lived in Rochdale I think at the time and that. And I said, you know, I may be suffering from this , you know, and if you've been doing it, and you know, I'd like to know more about it or what help you had. She told me about this group in [nearby city]. I mean I was always reading, you know, reading different things about anxiety and that. And I read the term social phobia but I didn't, you know, I associated phobia with something like extreme, you know, like the fear of heights or fear of spiders or whatever that you totally have to avoid or. I didn't see it as being associated with being around people because, you know, how can you be afraid of people? And so she told me about this group which I went to and that's when I knew in myself that, you know, when I spoke to the group or, you know, that were suffering themselves I told them about myself and what feelings I had and, you know, they agreed that this is, you know, what, what it is. And I sort of, that's when I self diagnosed myself basically.

 

Shaukat goes to social events arranged by a support group and can relax and enjoy himself because...

Shaukat goes to social events arranged by a support group and can relax and enjoy himself because...

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I recently went to, you know, wedding with people from the SA group down there. And I was fine there because they knew like my worse secrets in a way [Laughs]. So, it's like, you know, it's like I could be more relaxed then whereas if it's family or relatives' weddings or even friends from university that I knew years ago I don't feel relaxed although I can be there and I have been going there. But it takes, you know, a lot of energy I suppose to be at those events than it does to be at another wedding where people know me. So, you know, with the people that know about me I don't feel worried about, you know, doing anything wrong or being embarrassed or anything. And so the anxiety doesn't come about. And I can, you know, do things that I normally find difficult I can do those with this group of people and I can't do with another group of people. So it makes it complicated [Laughs].

So like, you know, I mean things like when I go out to my friends at work and we go out to [nearby city], we sort of have social nights out as well. I can go onto a dance floor with these people, whereas, you know, all through university I was, was really scared to on a dance floor. It was like very anxious with people because I thought they, people are going to think I'm not really , what's the word? You know, I can't, you know, I was thinking I can't dance properly or I can't do this and people would be laughing at me or whatever and things like that. And because I don't have those fears with these people because I think, you know, even if they are, they know what I'm feeling and then they understand it. So it doesn't matter and I mean, you know, it's like, it's things like that I can go to more meals or, you know, I can do a lot of other things I find harder with other people than with, you know, of this group of people. And it's, it makes it weird, because, you know, apart from them I don't really go out anywhere and I don't have a social life. And people think I don't go out. People think I don't really want to talk to people. Whereas when I'm with, you know, with my friends from SA group there's, you know, everybody's like, they don't think that, they sort of know, you know, I'm like a different person because we'd be going out and we went cinema, you know, on Friday. I don't think I've been to a cinema in [city] for about, six years, I don't know, because I don't have anyone to go with me because people don't really know me. 

 

He couldn't describe his anxiety to the doctor and was worried about being given the wrong...

He couldn't describe his anxiety to the doctor and was worried about being given the wrong...

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Even from your GP you don't get the time to explain things. He just gives you a few minutes or whatever and then, you know, I mean, the one I used to have when I was younger we used to be there nearly every week to him and, but because I couldn't describe the psychological fears I was always describing things like, my stomach aches or headaches or, you know, not, having appetite and stuff. Because I didn't even know that, you know, what anxiety was. I couldn't, I didn't even know what the words were for that. And he used to, you know, give me certain sort of vitamin tablets or whatever or, and, you know, he'd, he'd ask me things like, 'Are you, you know, worried about certain things or whatever'. But I was that anxious I didn't know what to describe in, what I'm worried about because there were so many different things. And the only thing I could clearly describe would be I was worried about, was school, you know, exams and things like that.

And then, you know, he'd just take that as being general, I was worried about exams. And because I didn't, you know, I didn't have the speaking skills as I do now, I wouldn't be able to just, you know, I might say a few words to him but I wouldn't know how to describe it at all. And then you just get, you know, sort of normal tablets or whatever and, you know, I didn't even know how to, well, I was worried as well in a way that the anxiety was masking everything because I was like, and even if I did describe something to him or if I thought I could describe it, I'd be worried that he might misinterpret or misunderstand it and give me sort of medication, you know, wrong medication or whatever or, you know, send me to a mental hospital or whatever. You know, I was like worried about all these things. And I didn't know really how, and because of it happening when I was really young or, you know, the I mean, I see my nephew now is 10 years old and he's really talkative and whatever and, you know, he can describe so many different things, I thought I couldn't speak out when I was 10.

I mean, even in Pakistan I couldn't describe things to people because my learning was, or my development was sort of hindered in a way with the, you know, like this sort of speaking ability and whatever or describing things was hindered by the anxiety. Or, you know, just like being alone for so many, not really speaking to people. So I, you know, I see other people now and, you know, I think, you know, I was never, never like that. So even when I was like, you know, going to the doctor at 15 my ability to describe things was really, really bad. And he wouldn't, you know, spend enough time with me to ask me the right questions in a way. Because I was, you know, always not sure how to describe it, or what shall I describe, and, you know, the physical things I could describe to him and I did. Anything else I was, you know, not sure and, you know, really not. But I mean he knew that it was, wasn't a physical thing because he sent me for tests, you know, to do all my blood tests and everything else like that. But he wouldn't give you the time really and before I'd, you know, described things he'd be writing a prescription already.

 

Shaukat doesn't know what triggered his anxiety but felt less to blame when he found out it was...

Shaukat doesn't know what triggered his anxiety but felt less to blame when he found out it was...

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So, you know, I don't know if there was any particular moment which triggered it badly but there's little things like that which happened. And then I think it went from one thing to another. But initially I was always, even when I found out about it, I was always trying to work out the reasons or the cause or, you know, why I can't I change myself. But after, you know, learning about, speaking with other people and learning from the books and that I've realised it's, it, you know, it can happen anytime with anybody or whatever and there's, you know, it doesn't really matter what are the cause is as long as, you know, you work on it to improve it. 

So, like for ages I spent, you know, sort of thinking what had caused it or, you know, what, you know, why can't I, you know, improve , why can't I change? Because I thought it was my fault because I'm not improving or say like, you know, going to a shop I find it hard, and I thought, you know, what's so difficult about that, what everybody has to do, so I forced myself to go which would make it worse. Because I'd not, you know, changed my sort of thinking about it. And I still, physically I'd be there but inside I'd be feeling really worse so it's all these, you know, actually learning about it and not really focusing on why it happened, you know, that, that I've started working on sort of improving. Because initially, you know, when I was reading those books I was always trying to figure out why, you know, why, why is it happening? Because I always believed it was only me because I couldn't see anybody else feeling like this or showing any signs like this. 

You know, like everybody else, you know what I mean, was, you know, OK they had friends, they're going out and they were able to get jobs quite easily but, you know, passed their driving test and whatever, and all the signs are showing that it was just me. And, you know, once I realised that there's other people and it's an illness and whatever, then that took that blame off myself as well. So, that made it easier and then learning about, you know, the things to improve it and you know, made it better to, to keep working on it rather than, you know, worrying about it which I always used to worry about why I have I got it or what have I got. And with all of that sorted, you know, went away and, when I just focused on just working on improving.

 

Shaukat read lots of different books to try to work out what was happening to him and this helped...

Shaukat read lots of different books to try to work out what was happening to him and this helped...

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And I just went through the self help stuff and I read loads of different books. I didn't understand, you know, some of the things and what and why it was happening, I tried to work out, you know, what caused it and whatever. And there isn't any, you know, any particular incident or event that, you know, caused it within me or anything.

So it took I think oh I don't know probably a couple of years to understand that. And then I was going to the group as well, so on a mostly, you know, every week. So I was hearing stuff from other people and learning about what medications and what things they'd been taking, and what was helpful. And then I think it was in about 2000 when I went to see my GP again because this time I knew, you know, what treatments I wanted and what specific therapy and , you know, what condition I had and what the. And I asked him to refer me to like a cognitive behaviour therapist.

 

Shaukat believes he hasn't been promoted at work because of his mental health problems and says...

Shaukat believes he hasn't been promoted at work because of his mental health problems and says...

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Hmm... So do you, I mean, do you, do you feel like that is discrimination? Because of'?

Yeah, I mean it's, it's there's definitely, you know, like the thing is that it's very vague because of the way they measure you for promotion because it, basically it's up to the manager, you know, as my line manager to say that he's suitable for promotion. He doesn't have to really, don't have to do another interview or another test or anything. So it's my day to day working ability and what he sees. Because I don't speak that much or whatever or in a meeting I won't show the skills that they, they need, then I don't get promoted. Even though I've been there five years, most of the people who've been there after me have been promoted. And it's not major, you know, it's not a major step, it's not like I'm going into like, you know, something, a different job or whatever. It's a very similar job, a bit more responsibility, more pay, but it's totally on the manager's sort of assessment, and you know, I even know that if, if it might have been a different manager he might have promoted me. So it's not even, you know, a big difference to what the level of work that I can do to what the next level is, you know, what, that I've been able to show. But technically, you know, like if you stick with the rigid rules that they've got for assessment then, you know, my skills obviously are going to be lacking because of my anxiety or me, you know, speaking with people and that, and in meetings that, but they're not so bad. I mean, it's like, you know, I've seen other people who are more quieter, just generally because they're quiet, they don't have the anxiety and they've been promoted or whatever. So it, it basically is, is, is the, my manager's thing and he's decided that he wasn't going to promote me even though he's helped me in other issues and he's, you know, made other changes to the working day and whatever, which have been really helpful. I think he's decided that, and then he's trying to stick to his decision, not really changing his mind. And he's sort of passed it on to HR saying well they need to, you know, say like if it was a test and 45% was the pass mark, he's saying they need to lower that test mark I mean, so that you can, you know, have the same as everybody else basically, get promoted. 

So, but there isn't any, you know, official marks, you're just either good enough to be promoted or you don't. So, it's just basically making, you know, what they call with the DDA, the reasonable adjustments, you know. Like they made a, other areas of, of the work and they've made them for people with, you know, physical disabilities but, you know, they don't have to do certain tasks and that, on the job and stuff and you know, it should be done with the same, in the same way but because it's, you know, it's not a visible disability it's a lot harder to get them to look at it, and get somebody to, you know, define it, and make what changes to make and. It's, you know, it's basically saying, you know, these are the behaviours that affect, well this is the illness that affects these behaviours but they're looking for those behaviours in, in, you know, in the assessment. If I don't show them as often or consistently then I won't get promoted. So, I'm kind of stuck. And it's really annoying because of my, you know, from my previous, I've done jobs which are a lot more harder, more demanding in the past, you know, with the IT jobs and stuff and I didn't really have much problem with that, I mean showing what I needed to do during the day. But because this is an open plan office and you're working with a group of people and it's not even, you know, it's not even just that. I think it's more, it's more to do with sort of gelling in with the people, you know, like my manager has a certain relationship with other people there, or they tal
 

Shaukat tried hypnotherapy and relaxation techniques because he was not sleeping and was worried...

Shaukat tried hypnotherapy and relaxation techniques because he was not sleeping and was worried...

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I always, you know, not sleeping well and I couldn't really talk to about to, about the different things I worry about with anybody really.  So I thought, you know, I need to see, I need to get help before losing more jobs and stuff. So I went to see a, it was a stress management course. The tutor there, he was a qualified psychotherapist and hypnotherapist and he taught stuff like yoga and meditation as well. So he built this sort of ten week stress management course around, in those things that he was quite  he knew quite a bit about. And that helped me a bit as to understand and realise about sort of, I mean, you know, well learning about relaxation techniques I think were the main thing that helped.  And he taught us various techniques in, in the class and how it's all linked to thought processes and how, you know, how a relaxed mind helps and whatever. And I did I think manage to help me sleep in some ways with that. 

But also I was doing hypnotherapy with him the same tutor, he had this private hypnotherapy practice. And  I think I did about ten sessions of hypnotherapy which I found really, really difficult because I couldn't relax when I was with him. And I didn't know how I was suppose to feel or what I was supposed to be able, and I just thought, you know, I'm doing what I can. But it didn't really help at all. And after about ten sessions, you know, he told me himself that, you know, it's not really working for you so, you know, don't continue with it. Although I was still going to his, you know, stress management course which was really more helpful I think.  And so I learned sort of techniques of reducing, you know, my worries or learning to relax more at night.

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