Mental health: ethnic minority experiences

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.


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