Analysis of the Nature of Anxiety: Body Image and Social Physique Anxiety

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Various cognitive and affective investigation have studied the nature of anxiety, however, little has been researched regarding the motivational aspect around anxiety, even with the progress of prominent motivational theories (Gray, 1982). A crutial aspect of motivation is personal goals, this is because they normally give a sense of purpose, meaning and allows people to set a route and direction, they are believed to signify peoples’ efforts to reach new levels of positive adaptation, self-discovery and psychological satisfaction (Sheldon & Elliot, 1999). In addition, the actual practice of trying to achieve personal goals aids and enables psychological growth and personality development (Sheldon, Kasser, Smith, & Share, 2002). A dimensional framework has now been developed to comprehend psychopathology in regards to approach and avoidance. Gray 1985 centred his focus on neuroanatomical models and descried two major motivational systems; the Behavioural Activation System (BAS), and the Behavioural Inhibition System (Gray 1985; Gray and McNaughton, 1996). Information from multiple levels of analysis from imaging, psychophysiology, and factor analyses of questionnaires all indicate that BAS and BIS are individual systems, not opposing ends of a bipolar continuum ( Beauchaine, 2001; Corr, 2001). Overactivity of the BIS is associated with more negative affect, in particular fear and worry. Chronic activation is correlated with trait neuroticism at the personality level, and with anxiety disorders at an acute pathology level (Matthews & Gilliland, 1999). Remarkably, high BIS activation is most strongly linked to generalised anxiety disorder (Chorpita, Albano & Barlow, 1998). Gray’s (1982) motivational concepts of reward-driven (BAS) and punishment driven (BIS) systems have provided a theoretical framework for the recent study of approach and avoidance goals in keeping with Gray’s motivational constructs. Approach goals are characterized as representing a focus on positive outcomes and attempting to move towards or maintain desired outcomes. On the other hand, avoidance goals are centered on negative outcomes and trying to move away from undesirable outcomes (e.g., ‘not letting little things upset me”) (e.g., Elliot, Sheldon and & Church, 1997). These motivational systems have been theorised to be instantiated, in part, in the prefrontal cortex and lateralised, such that left prefrontal cortex is associated with an approach system, involved in obtaining desirable out-comes, and right prefrontal cortex is connected with a withdrawal system, involved in avoiding undesirable outcomes (Davidson, 1983). At the level of motivational temperaments, research indicates that approach and avoidance are inversely linked (Elliot and Thrash 2002; Gable et al., 2003). Davidson (2002) proposed that anxiety disorders are distinguished by an ‘invariant core’ of psychological tasks he credited to the avoidance system, for example, intensified vigilance for threatening stimuli. On the other hand, research indicates anxiety disordered are a heterogeneous category (e.g., Heller and Nitschke 1998; Mineka et al., 1998). This could make possible that an acceleration in the avoidance system is only connected to certain anxiety dimensions. Activity theories of well-being focus on the method of goal pursuit. According to such theories, it is the dynamic pursuit of goals that contributes to well-being, rather than actually accomplishing the goals (Cantor, 1990). Different to activity theorists, telic theories of well-being concentrate on the result of goal pursuits. Telic theories also provide evidence supporting that well-being is improved when an individual successfully achieves a goal and said well-being is diminished when a person attempt to attain a goal fails (Diener, 1984). In other words, the productive pursuit of goals is an essential determining factor of well-being (Ryan and Deci, 2002). Emerging research reveals that approach goals relative to avoidance goals are positively related to subjective well-being (SWB) (e.g., Coats, Janoff-Bullman, Alpert, 1996). Current research by Dickson and Macleod (2004) has explored idiographic approach and avoidance goals in regards to anxiety and depression, with an adolescent sample. In terms of anxiety, these authors found that anxiety was associated with an increase in avoidance goals (but not approach goals) and avoidance type consequences for goals but, counter to the pre estimation, anxiety also correlated with a decrease in approach type consequences for goals (but not when the influence of depression was partialled out).

Body Image/Social Physique anxiety

Taking part in physical education can be a worrying experience for students (Carlson, 1995). As well as fears about the lack of capability to take part in the sport and activities presented during P.E. lesson, (Carlson, 1995), there is a confluence of social and developmental factors that have the opportunity to disorder students’ uneasiness about displaying a skill or their bodies, in front of other members of the class (Levine & Smolak, 2002). Physical changes associated with puberty and increased importance of peer evaluations and acceptance leading up to and during adolescence can heighten student’s sense of social awareness and self-consciousness (Brustad and Partridge, 2002) Levine and Smolak (2002) also state that the more adolescents internalise the culturally prescribed physical ideal and the further they perceive themselves to form the ideal, the more dissatisfied they are with the appearance of their body. Research has shown that children may not be engaging in physical activity for health benefits (Duncan, Woodfield, Al-Nakeeb & Nevill, 2002), but they exercise to lose weight. This is of concern as physical activity habits that develop in childhood may persist into adult life (Harro & Riddoch, 2000).

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Social media has a colossal part to play in regard to body image. The large number of images posted on social media platforms ( ten million new photographs are uploaded to Facebook every hour (Cuier & Mayer-Schonberger)) provides a regular opportunity for users to make appearance-related social comparisons, and research shows that regularly comparing one’s appearance to others, can lead to negative body image (Myers & Crowther, 2009). Meier & Gray, 2014; Tiggemann & Slater, 2013 conducted studies on secondary school students and found that Facebook users report more drive for thinness, internalisation of the thin ideal, body surveillance, self-objectification, and appearance comparison than non-doers.

Pupils that reported levels of Social Physique anxiety are a concern since these negative experiences are associated with avoidance of class participation (Ullrich-French et al., 2011). Sabiston et al., 2007 conducted interviews, finding that P.E. lessons, fostered Social Physical Anxiety encounters in female teenagers, and during these interviews students reported receiving notes from parents to get out of taking part in the lesson. Similarly, Cox et al., discovered a significant positive relationship between SPA in P.E. and using a note to avoid participating in P.E. in multivariate path analysis. Hart et al., (1989) proposed that behavioural avoidance is a likely SPA coping strategy, and P.E. offers opportunities to prolong SPA happenings which in turn can adaopt physical activity avoidance, which is unfortunate, especially with the the variety of positive physical, affective, cognitive, and social benefits coupled with P.E. participation (though these outcomes are dependent on social factors (Bailey et al., 2009).

According to Martin & Mack (1996), Bane and Mihalko (1995) females consistently score higher in SPA than males, hence why Brownell (1991) suspected that in our current culture’s obsession for thinness and physical attractiveness, female athletes might pursue and struggle with bodily perfection issues to a greater extent than their male counterparts, and in turn, experience more anxiety about their physique if they fail to meet their high and unrealistic standards. Research has demonstrated a relationship between perfectionism and many different forms of anxiety. For example, Hewitt and Flett (1991a,b) found socially prescribed perfectionism (i.e. maladaptive perfectionism) correlated strongly with social anxiety in both student and clinical samples. Saboonchi and Lundh (1997) reported similar findings between dimensions associated with maladaptive perfectionism (i.e. concern over mistakes, doubts about action, socially-prescribed perfectionism) and measure of social anxiety and agoraphobia. Lundh and Ost (1996) reported that social phobias exhibited higher levels of perfectionism and self-consciousness than controls. Finally, Hall, Kerr and Matthews (1998) and Onwuegbuzie and Daley (1999) both showed a significant relationship between concern over mistakes and doubt about action dimensions and competitive sport anxiety and statistics anxiety, respectively. In short, these studies provide evidence that maladaptive perfectionism is strongly associated with anxiety psychopathology. Through extension to Terry-Short et al.’s theoretical distinction, maladaptive perfectionism closely parallels and lends itself to negative perfectionism. In light of the connection between perfectionism and social anxiety, it would be logical to assess the implications of other possible types of anxiety. Within the self-presentational framework, social physique anxiety (SPA) is one type of social anxiety that has yet to be linked to perfectionism. SPA relates to the anxiety experienced when an individual perceives that his/her body shape or figure is being negatively evaluated by others (Hart, Leary & Rejeski, 1989). A number of studies have shown that athletes and exercisers experience SPA in a variety of situations and contexts (Hausenblas & Mack, 1999; Spink, 1992). According to Schlenker and Leary (1982), individuals may set unrealistic high standards in relation to their social performance, resulting in the inability and failure to be satisfied with how they are regarded by others. Over a period of time, this excessive concern may be continually reinforced through repeated failures of attempting to achieve the desired social performance and to self-present other important individuals in the ‘perfect’ manner. By setting unrealistic high standards and attempting to avoid failure in the perceived eyes of important others (whether in performance or physical shape or appearance), athletes may experience more anxiety and concern about their physique due to the possibility of failure to self-present according to their perceived ‘perfect’ standard. One purpose of the present study, then, was to determine the relationship between perfectionism—both positive and negative—and SPA (a specific physique or body social anxiety) among male and female elite athletes.


Kearney (2016) explains that school attendance problems, including absenteeism, largely belong to either a collection of several varieties of absences (e.g., late to school; skipped class or missed time of day) or to general complexities attending or getting to school that can involve a wide array of individual and circumstantial elements. School attendance problems are closely linked to internalising behaviour problems, such as anxiety, depression and social isolation ( Pompili et al., 2013; Miller et al., 2015; Knollmannet al., 2019). Follow-up studies indicate a risk for ongoing mental health problems in late adolescence (Buitelaar, Van Andel, Duyx & Van Strien, 1994) and in adulthood (Flakierska-Praquim, Lindstrom & Gillberg, 1997; McCune & Hynes, 2005). Berg (2002) and Egger, Costello & Angold (2003) proclaim that anxiety-based school refusal (hereafter school refusal) is a type of school attendance problem characterised by the young person having difficulty attending school and experiencing problematic levels of anxiety. It appears to be associated with developmental pathways different from truancy (Egger et al., 2003). Reinforcing this is, An enduring categorical dichotomy has involved school refusal truancy, which has been historically based on internalising-externalising behaviour problem distinction (Young et al., 1990). School refusal is often lined to internalising difficulties such as anxiety and depression, whereas truancy is often linked to externalising difficulties such as oppositional and conduct problems (Dembo et al., 2016). In addition, Bobakova et al., (2015) proclaim that school refusal can be coupled with parental knowledge of a child’s absenteeism, contrasted by school truancy which is frequently tied to lack of parental knowledge. A clear advantage of the school refusal-truancy distinction is it’s face validity, as some students are notably anxious and so avoid school in general or ceratin subjects, while students that fail to come to school whilst lacking emotional exertion and with more delinquency (Berg, 1997; Evans, 2000). Contrary to this, schools nowadays notify parents of the pupils’ absence sometimes instantly, which does decrease the significance of the distinction built on parental knowledge of even permission (Smythe-Leistico and Page, 2018).

School attendance is positively correlated to a successful education. Balfanz (2016) illustrates that positive school attendance and successful advancements in education are closely related to ‘broad, positive outcome variables’ such as greater earning potential and economic empowerment, openings for further education and different avenues of adult and career readiness (Darling-Hammond et al., 2014), improved bodily health and reduced death rates (Freudenberg and Ruglis, 2007; Allison and Attisha, 2019), and an increase in public action and outcomes (Zaff et., 2017; DePaoli et al., 2018). Rumberger, (2011) and Lee et al., (2016) summarise that school attendance and successful graduation may perhaps improve quality of life and buffer harmful mental and physical health outcomes. Conversely, school attendance problems, including absenteeism, have long been recognised as a critical development challenge and limiting factor for adolescents (Kearnery, 2016). Burton et al., (2014) support this, proclaiming that school attendance concerns in several forms are correlated to a wide array of school based weaknesses, for example, a lower educational performance, lower reading and test scores, less literacy skill and lastly the willingness to dropout of school. This research has helped this study identify the type of lack of school attendance pupils with anxiety may experience. It shows that pupils are feeling worried or stress about a subject will refuse to take part in a subject/lesson or may miss a day off school because of it.


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