Chapter 3: Literacies across the disciplines

3.9.3 How communication can be used as prevention and treatment for anxiety disorders (research essay)

Kade Mindry

English 102, April 2021


In this essay, I analyzed articles that support my thesis statement of “Is communication, either via therapy or an inner circle, thought to reduce anxiety symptoms?” Anxiety is one of the most diagnosed disorders in the world. Whether it be social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, or one of the many other types. I have experienced severe anxiety at a younger age and have managed to overcome it through communication therapy. However, there are many people who choose alternative methods of therapy like medication. There is no correct nor incorrect way to approach the therapy process of someone dealing with a form of anxiety, but over the past few years, there has been significant research favouring the different forms of communication therapy and how it helps those with anxiety overcome the disorder. Regardless of what type of anxiety, the various types of anxiety disorders have been prevalent in society for years, however recently, the numbers of people dealing with anxiety have likely skyrocketed. Although the exact cause for this is unable to be determined, many professionals believe that it is due to a lack of communication. Communication is a very broad term and includes things like texting, speaking, and writing, as well as things like painting and drawing. Professionals believe that communication can be used not only as a preventative measure, but also as a method to overcome and prevent anxiety. 

How has communication helped me personally, overcome and treat anxiety?

Starting from the age where I first went to school/left the house, I would cry uncontrollably when I was not with my parents. Not because I was scared to be without them, nor because I did not know what to do, but more because I would constantly overthink to the point where I would make myself be sick. I would run through scary scenarios in my head and think of the absolute worst things that could happen, for no reason at all. I would not how to communicate it, to be honest, I struggle now even to communicate what I thought and how I felt. Eventually, after a year or two of crying every day on the way to school, and then being fine as soon as I was kept busy, I was taken to therapy for what was labelled under the umbrella term, anxiety. My dad had to take a spare shirt when he dropped us off at school, because I would cry myself into such a state that I would sometimes throw up on him. If my parent were 5 minutes late, or if there was a big storm, I my mind would race, and I would automatically assume the worst had happened or was going to happen. It wasn’t until I began going to therapy that I was able to understand what was going on and why it was happening. Before therapy, I just assumed it was normal, only other people could hide it better than I could, however that was not the case. I was unable to sleep at friends’ houses for years, they would always have to stay at my house, because if I was not with my parents or my family, I was terrified something would happen to them. After attending therapy and learning firstly how to get my parents to understand what and how I was thinking, I was able to slowly better my communication with them so that they could better understand what I was going through and how to help me. It took many years, and many different therapists and different types of communication as well as different types of therapy, but eventually I was able to overcome it with the help of my loved ones and therapists. This is not a sob story, nor a story to make my essay more believable, but this is my story about how over time, and with communication, I overcame an anxiety disorder, and hence, why I have such an interest in this topic.

Methods used

Most, if not all of the featured articles had to have conducted tests or used previous test to arrive at the various conclusions. Whether it was scientific tests, or just surveys that needed to be completed anonymously in order to obtain how different people feel, all of the tests were done in such a way as to achieve the most neutral and scientifically beneficial results possible for that specific category. To begin with, Haverkampf, along with his own research, conducted countless hours of researching and analysing past papers and other research that was conducted in order for him to take into account what other professors and researchers had found therefore his articles tend to be very credible.


How can communication help treat anxiety, and why does it work?

Although there are so many different types of anxiety, and so many different causes for anxiety, many people around the world, even those who have been diagnosed with the different types of anxiety, are unaware of what anxiety is and how communication as a form of treatment for it can help.  Jonathan Haverkampf has two articles that I will be analysing simultaneously in an attempt to answer the question that is, “How, and why, can communication be used as a treatment for anxiety”. In an article, Communication Focused Therapy for Anxiety and Panic Attacks by Christian Jonathan Haverkampf, the author breaks down what anxiety is, as well as looking into the different communication patterns, possible side effects, the process to understanding and approaching anxiety, and what communication focused therapy is and why it is important. The conclusion was that based on many years of research and looking at different papers that have been written, and it was found that communication is the main, and most important part of change. It was established that when there is a meaningful exchange of words, thoughts or messages, and a mutual flow of information in a ‘safe environment’, it brings a positive change in both people who take part. (Haverkampf, 39) 

The study looked specifically at public speaking anxiety and its relationship to different “psychological stress indicators” at four different stages of the delivery. (Haverkampf, 9) The author found that communication in some way, or another was extremely important and “the vehicle of change” (Haverkampf, 39) It was found that communication lowers anxiety because it allows people to ‘de-stress’, and essentially makes more meaningful information available to those we can trust, allowing them to help us and support us if it is needed. (Haverkampf, 18) It allows people to adapt to their environments, and live life according to their own interests and values. It was found that the reason there was such success with communication, was because it allows people to “grasp who they are, and their wants and needs in life”.

Communication allows us to have a sense of self and a grasp of who we are and what we need and want in the world, but it has to be learned similar to our communication with other people.” (Haverkampf, 18) This study follows the common theme of communication. It investigates what it is, why it helps, and the positive effect it has on coping with, and dealing with anxiety.  It is an in-depth study that helped me generate a broader understanding of anxiety, whilst looking at some forms of communication that can help, and different factors that may even worsen the effect anxiety has on one’s life, like social setting.

Another article that was linked very closely with to the previous article is Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Social Anxiety and Shyness, also by Jonathan Haverkampf. This article looks at why communication is important, why people with social anxiety struggle to communicate, and what is so dangerous about a lack of communication. Haverkampf believes that communication is the roots of how people pursue what is valuable to them and fulfill their aspirations, communicating is an essential part of leading a happy life. However, people with social anxiety who struggle to communicate, essentially have their lives interfered with as they are unable to develop helpful communication patterns, and this in turn interferes with “life itself” (Haverkampf, 108). He then states that “Individuals with social anxiety often see their communication patterns as a direct expression of themselves rather than as a skill which can be experimented with to find ways of interacting with others that ultimately fit one’s personality and sense of self.” Haverkampf came to these conclusions by means of research, previous papers, other studies. He believes that the most important factor of communication, is that it allows for an exchange of meaningful messages, which allow the individual to become better connected to oneself. (Haverkampf, 110)

What is the best style of communication?

In an article I looked at called “Social Anxiety and Perceived Social Support: Gender Differences and the Mediating Role of Communication Styles” by Michael D. Barnett and others. The purpose of this study was to investigate different types of communication styles “as mediators of the relationship between social anxiety and perceived social support.” (Barnett et al, 3) This means that Barnett underwent the study in order to try and establish whether there was a relationship between different communication styles, and social anxiety. This article specifically spoke about social anxiety and whether or not there were differences between genders when it came to the different communication styles, and what may be causing these differences, be it a perceived LACK of social support and hence the lack of people to communicate with etc. (Barnett et al, 6). I found this article interesting because it analyzes the different forms of communication styles (varying from expressiveness to more negative forms of communication like verbal aggressiveness) and it breaks down the link and common problems between social anxiety and communication and examines social support and how it is linked to communication. (Barnett et al, 5) The link that was found was that individuals with higher social anxiety were more likely to avoid perceived negative social outcomes by developing a “self-protective” style of communication in which there is very little “self-disclosure”. (Barnett et al, 11) In order to get the desired results, participants completed an online survey and received extra course credit for participating. The authors found that there were no gender differences with regards to social anxiety or perceived social support, however, social anxiety was found to be more prominent where people of both genders perceived they had very little to no social support and did not express their thoughts as they felt they had nobody to express them to. (Barnett et al, 11) The authors found that women had higher levels of expressiveness and emotionality, while men had higher levels of preciseness, verbal aggressiveness, “questioningness”, and impression manipulativeness, however, there is no explanation for what causes this. The common theme in this article was communication, and how it links to mediating the different forms of anxiety (in this case, social anxiety). I had anxiety when I was younger and communication helped me deal with it, I am interested to find out why. Support is very dependent on social support, which in one way or another is a discourse, whether it be friends or family, people just don’t always understand that.

Can a lack of communication have a negative effect on general well-being?

It is said, in an article by Yixin Chen, that although communication can help overcome, as well as prevent, anxiety, it is also said that a lack of communication can have many negative side effects and cause for concern. One of them being loneliness. Loneliness is a state of emotional distress accompanying perceived deficiencies in the quantity or quality of one’s social relationships.” (Chen, 4) The inability to communicate with people and experince a “real, honest bond” (Littler, 9) can lead to individuals seeking comfort and trying to communicate by means of things are not made for a deep and intimate form of communication, for example, social media. This leads to an all-round sense of loneliness and can result in depression and other negative side effects and conditions. Loneliness has become so common since 2018, that “it has been increasingly recognized as a significant public health problem.” (Chen, 5) However, just as a lack of communication leads to loneliness, “loneliness has been seen to have a unique and deleterious effect on physical and psychological health.” (Chen, 6). Loneliness deteriorates some of the positive psychological functions in the brain that are responsible for things like “general well-being” (Wright et al, 7). Additionally, “loneliness has been found to be a full or partial mediator linking psychosocial predictors, such as self-esteem and social support” (Chen, 8) which make it even more difficult for one to then communicate as they then have an even worse perceived social support which is one of the primary factors of causing anxiety in the first place.

Is communication something that can be learnt and done alone, effectively?

Another interesting article by Ara Irfat and other author was examined. In this article, Irfat and other authors examined the “rise in mental disorders over the past few decades” (Irfat et al, 1920), and specifically, people suffering from common mental disorders like anxiety and depression. These are conditions that millions around the world are affected by, however, many do not recognize it as a condition that can be treated, nor one that is dangerous to one’s health, including many of those who are affected by it. As shown above, Chen and other authors and recently stated, with evidence, that that however is not the case and anxiety and a lack of communication (which is one of the primary causes for anxiety) can lead “loneliness” and a general “deterioration of well-being” (Chen, 6) The authors go on to break down the causes of anxiety and how it works and affects the brain, as well as what the different types of treatment are. This was very interesting as the common denominator was that all, or most forms are treatment involve communication in some way or another. These types of communication are embedded int the various types of therapy, which include psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy, or a combination of both.

Do college students identify as suffering from anxiety?

In an artice by Dolly Young, at the University of Tennessee, Young wrote an article about her findings when investigating the causes of college student’s speech anxiety and whether or not they suffer from it. This article conducted a study by means of an online, anonymous survey to examine anxiety and speaking, but from the perspective of students. Young analyzed the findings to answer questions like “Do speaking activities indeed make students nervous? If so, what is it about speaking that makes students anxious? Which speaking activities make students particularly uncomfortable? Can instructors do anything to reduce anxiety, particularly speaking anxiety, in the classroom?” The most common answers were that speaking activities do indeed make students “nervous and anxious” (Young, 543). Although the cause was unable to be determined by means of the survey, this led to further research being “given the go ahead” to be conducted, which in time will hopefully lead to the reasons that students feel anxious and nervous when tasked to speak in front of others and their teachers. A common denominator for “What can teachers do to prevent students feeling anxious” was more in depth “speech training” (Young, 548), as well as smaller groups to present in front of.

Academic fields that may be interested

I believe that fields that are involved directly with communication as a treatment for anxiety, as well as communication as a preventative measure for anxiety, would be psychology and education, as well as non-psychology fields like social work, human resources, and clinical mental health counselling. Psychology and mental health counselling would both be interested in this topic as communication to treat anxiety is directly related to therapy and the treatment of anxiety. Psychology is related to the study of the mind and so this topic would be of interest because the communication required would consist of how people are thinking and the way they are dealing with certain things.  The educational field would take interest in a topic like this because many of the causes for anxiety are related to school and studies in some way. The educational system would look at how they can, and if they can, address certain common factors and what they can do to reduce anxiety. They could also educate people on the importance of communication as well as the different factors that may cause anxiety, as well as educate people on the different types of communication. By doing this, the education system will become more productive, and the youth would become less anxious. A less anxious youth could subsequently lead to less self-harm, a more productive youth, fewer mental health conditions, and a generation with a better all-round well-being.

Counter argument 

Although I have not necessarily found any concrete evidence that communication does not and cannot help treat anxiety, nor can it help prevent it, I have found evidence that could be interpreted in such a way that it would make sense if someone is taught to communicate the wrong way, or if someone trusts an “inner circle” of theirs, who then break their trust, it can be very detrimental to the specific individual and can actually end up leading to more disorder on top of anxiety, as well as trust issues and lack of confidence. Jonathan Haverkampf believes that the most important factor of communication, is that it allows for an exchange of meaningful messages, which then in turn, allow the individual to become better connected to oneself. (Haverkampf, 110) This will lead to the individual understanding the cause of the disorder, and coming to terms with it which “is imperative for an individual with any type of mental disorder or anxiety disorder” (Joshua A. B. Littler), because if an individual does not understand it, nor believe that they are suffering from it, then how can they go about improving the necessary skills (communication) and do what needs to be done in order to combat it and overcome it. However, if an individual who is either being taught to communicate effectively, or undergoing a specific type of communication therapy, be it professional or in a social context, and it is being done incorrectly, the results will not show and the individual will not see any progress, leading to a lack of trust, and also, a decline in the previous levels of communication. Hence, if the process is not done correctly, it can have negative effects for the patient, and in the bigger picture, the slandering of the different communication methods.


In conclusion, communication is a vital part of not only dealing with anxiety, but also avoiding anxiety of many different forms. It allows one to express their thoughts and is also very dependent on the social circle and the level of trust the person has in the people they are communicating with (their inner circle).  In this essay I have found appropriate articles and research to answer questions like “What causes anxiety?” and “How do anxiety disorders affect our everyday life?” in order to give the readers a better understanding of anxiety as a whole and link this research back to my main point, how communication can be used to help combat people suffering from different types of anxiety and to give readers some context, and for a better understanding of the topic. In my previous essay, I used an article by Barnett and other, where the prime purpose of the study was to try and establish whether there was a relationship between different communication styles, and social anxiety. This article specifically spoke about social anxiety and whether there were differences between genders when it came to the different communication styles, and what may be causing these differences, be it a perceived LACK of social support and hence the lack of people to communicate with, or something else. “Are there specific types of communication that work best for combatting anxiety, if so, which types?” I conclude that communication does not only be used to prevent and treat anxiety, but it is much more than that. Communication can be used not only to treat and prevent anxiety, which in turn can prevent loneliness and improve general-well-being and health, but also, communication forms the base, that if the foundations are solid, can prevent many very prevalent and dangerous mental disorders that are so common, yet so harmful in today’s world.

Works Cited

Michael D. Barnett, et al (2020) Social Anxiety and Perceived Social Support: Gender Differences and the Mediating Role of Communication Styles, 2020, pp. 1-18

Jonathan Haverkampf (2017) Communication-Focused Therapy (CFT) for Social Anxiety and Shyness, 2017, pp. 108-113


Joshua A. B. Littler. “ANXIETY AND COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION” School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, 2019, pp 1-14

Chen, Yixin. “How Does Communication Anxiety Influence Well-Being?” International Journal of Communication, 2019, pp. 4795-4807

Wright, Jesse H. et al “Computer-Assisted Cognitive-Behavior Therapy and Mobile Apps for Depression and Anxiety” Current Psychiatry Reports, 2019, pp 1-9


Johnston, Jo. “Stress and anxiety” Veterinary Nursing Journal, Vol. 35, 2020, pp. 217-221

Hilliard, Jake; Kear, Karen; Donelan, Helen and Heaney, Caroline (2020). Students’ experiences of anxiety in an assessed, online, Computers and Education, 143, article no. 103675.

Duffy, Mary E. “Trends in Mood and Anxiety Symptoms and Suicide-Related Outcomes Among US” Elsevier, 2018, pp. 1-17

Lidner, Philip et al. “Therapist-led and self-led one-session virtual reality exposure therapy for public speaking anxiety with consumer hardware and software: A randomized controlled trial” Journal of Anxiety Disorders, Vol 51, 2018, pp. 11-22

Chorpita BF, Barlow DH. “The development of anxiety: the role of control in the early environment” Psychol Bull. 1998, Vol 124 pp. 3-21.

Young, Dolly. “An Investigation of Students’ Perspectives on Anxiety and Speaking” University of Tennessee, 1990, pp. 540-551


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