In the recent past, I have been participating in an online support group for people suffering from anxiety disorder. This group is known as Daily Strength Anxiety Support Group. Daily strength is an open group that welcomes membership from all people of all ages, gender, and status who are seeking help. Currently, the group has a total of 9,780 members who have registered. Members share their experiences on the platform and receive responses from the rest of the members who can identify with the situation or have a contribution to the raised concern. All shares and responses are posted on the group homepage so that they are accessible to all members which ensure that any person with a similar challenge gets helped. However, the content posted and opinions put forth should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
A support group is a gathering of individuals with common experiences or concerns who provide each other with encouragement, comfort, and advice. Mostly, these groups revolve around health concerns or disorders such as depression or anxiety (Barak, Boniel-Nissim, and Suler, 2008). Anxiety disorders are a group that forms mental disorders. They (anxiety disorders) are characterized by significant feelings of fear and anxiety. Although the general feeling of anxiety is normal and common with almost everyone, extreme cases that linger for long are a form of a disorder. Several categories of anxiety include generalized anxiety disorder, specific phobias, panic, agoraphobia, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, separation anxiety, situational anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and selective mutism (Kraus, Stricker, and Speyer, 2010). In America, this disorder affects 18% of the population, but only a third of this population seeks professional help. With the globalization of technology, most people with these issues have resorted to online support groups and other non-traditional mental health services such as online counseling. According to Fox (2009), an estimated 21% of the US citizens have accessed online information about mental disorders including anxiety and depression.
Online support groups for anxiety have various strengths, all which result in the benefit of all the members. One of the strengths is based on the anonymity of the group members. One does not have to display details about themselves, and this makes participants feel shielded. It allows people to share without the fear of being condemned or identified. Secondly, the commonality in the experiences and concerns strengthens the group. All the members are going through similar experiences; therefore, there is no room for judgment. Those who have overcome certain experiences shared in the group can guide the concerned participant on the way to handle the situation. Third, the diversity of the members is an added strength. Members are from all walks of life, all ages, gender, race, and status. This means that they are at different levels and have had different experiences. The group is, therefore, rich with all sorts of encouragement and ideas, thereby proving to be very helpful. Another strength is the sincerity and commitment of the members. Most, if not all, of the posts, shared on the homepage are responded to by the other members. This has made the group effective and helpful to many, increasing the number of membership and recovery reports.
These groups are not without weaknesses or limitations. One of the limitations is the lack of physical presence. Some people feel the need to have a physical presence and sense of belonging that is brought about by physical person-to-person interactions (Beldad, De Jong, and Steehouder, 2010). Secondly, online participation may bring about a situation referred to as toxic disinhibition whereby another participant may fight it easier to be rude and criticize another harshly on the internet than in real life. If this happens, it could affect participants negatively in a group aimed at offering encouragement. Another limitation could be technical challenges brought about by the use of the internet and electronics such as damage of gadgets or power cut which could result in individuals failing to participate in the discussions.
The common issues that affect individuals with anxiety disorder vary depending on which category the individual is. However, there are similar issues that are common for all these people. These include fear, stomach problems when they get anxious, panic attacks, sleeplessness, and low levels of concentration. Most of the people experience these problems when they are encountered by a situation they are not comfortable with such as being in the same place with a stranger, visiting a new place, a new assignment, and others for simply being in an enclosed environment where they feel they would not be in a good position to escape if need arises. Although individuals experiencing anxiety disorder range from young to old, a majority of this group is comprised of teens and middle-aged individuals.
Daily Strength anxiety support group has been significantly effective with its services to its member population. Many of the members who have aired their concerns have been offered help in all ways possible including encouragement, advice, and directions where need be. There is a sense of satisfaction evident with those suffering after these shares from the other members. Those with critical conditions have been advised to seek professional assistance, and some have come back expressing their gratitude after receiving the help that helped them move on. The effectiveness of the group has also been evident with the increase in the number of members. Members who have benefited from the group spread word to others with the same challenges and they end up registering. Therefore, Daily strength support group has been a great help.
In working with people with mental disorders, theoretical orientation is vital if effectiveness is to be achieved. Professionals in the field of mental health have a basis by which they approach cases brought to them by their patients. Theoretical orientation determines how to respond to complex patient issues, behaviors and emotions (Halbur, 2011). The common theoretical orientations that have been established include person-centered therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, brief psychodynamic therapy, and motivational interviewing. Person-centered therapy is based on the relationship the person with the disorder is having with himself and others. In this online group, the encouragements and ideas shared help build relationships and a kind of love that makes the person understand that he is not alone in that situation and that others are willing to offer support. The support group also employs cognitive behavior therapy theory which posits that emotions and behaviors are derived from ones thoughts. People who suffer anxiety mostly have thoughts such as they are not going to make it or they will die. By offering encouragement and guidance, these people can eventually change their way of thinking and think positively, thereby turning around their situation. Motivational interviewing is also evident in the Daily strength group. It is closely related to person-centered therapy and involves showing empathy and warmth to those in distress. These theoretical orientations have been employed and proved to be effective in offering help.
Daily Strength group has been faced with minor ethical issues which have raised concerns with some members. One of the ethical factors that have been witnessed was overstepping of rights of the members. This was an instance where a member was rudely harsh to another claiming to be expressing himself. This resulted in a terrible backlashes and the person who had posted her problem was very offended. Another instance was on posting of irrelevant information that did not concern the group. To address these issues, there are rules that have been introduced guiding members on the limit of their rights and the issues that are discussed in the group (Rummell, and Joyce, 2010). These rules were made strict, and anyone violating them can be removed from the group. This has acted as a control measure thus far.
Since the group is open for all people from all walks of life, multi-cultural issues are also present though in a small capacity. People from different cultures experience anxiety in different ways depending on their environment. Some seem to be more affected than others. This group treats everyone equally and help is offered in line with the problem at hand. Those who seem to bear it strongly offer tips to the fragile ones so that everyone can overcome this disorder.
To sum up, online support groups offer an alternative to traditional methods of counseling. They have proved to be of help to many, including people suffering from anxiety disorder. Therefore, they can be recommended to people with mental disorders.
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Halbur, D. (2011). Developing your theoretical orientation in counseling and psychotherapy.
Klein, B., Meyer, D., Austin, D. W., & Kyrios, M. (2011). Anxiety onlinea virtual clinic: preliminary outcomes following completion of five fully automated treatment programs for anxiety disorders and symptoms. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 13(4).
Kraus, R., Stricker, G., & Speyer, C. (Eds.). (2010). Online counseling: A handbook for mental health professionals. Academic Press.
Riding, R., & Rayner, S. (2013). Cognitive styles and learning strategies: Understanding style differences in learning and behavior. Routledge.
Rummell, C. M., & Joyce, N. R. (2010). So wat do u want to wrk on 2day?: The ethical implications of online counseling. Ethics & Behavior, 20(6), 482-496.
Van Uden-Kraan, C. F., Drossaert, C. H., Taal, E., Seydel, E. R., & van de Laar, M. A. (2009). Participation in online patient support groups endorses patients empowerment. Patient education and counseling, 74(1), 61-69.
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