Siu Wai was always coming up with excuses recently in order to skip school. Every morning she claimed to have a stomach ache or a headache, and would refuse to go to class. Her mother was worried about her health, so she took her to several doctors.
The worries only grew as the doctors, after conducting physical checks, told the mother that her daughter seemed perfectly healthy. Mrs Lam did not know what to do, and began agonizing.
Meanwhile, Siu Wai’s constant absence on days with physical education classes caught her class teacher’s attention. Miss Chan arranged a meeting with Mrs Lam to talk about the daughter’s possible mental issues which she believed to be the cause of her physical discomfort. She suggested professional help from a psychiatrist.
At the beginning of her first consultation, Siu Wan hid behind her mother and avoided any eye contact with the psychiatrist. Later, she slowly got used to the environment and was willing to talk about her school life.
Siu Wai revealed that she was no longer with the same classmates she used to have, following the start of a new school year. On one occasion, she forgot to bring her PE uniform and fell on the ground in her tight school uniform during class. Her classmates mocked her for her clumsiness and started calling her names.
Since then she avoided PE classes for the fear of being made fun of. Whenever she thought about the moment that she had fallen, whether it was during recess or other classes, she would feel nervous and physically unwell.
It was a typical case of sociophobia. Siu Wai cared too much about others’ opinions of her that she came up with disastrous thoughts while interacting with her peers. Her anxiety could adversely affect her body and show up in various symptoms.
To conquer her anxiety, Siu Wai started analyzing the causes of her negative emotions, delving objectively into the matters that bothered her and finding ways to rescue herself from embarrassing situations.
She was also introduced to some social skills and tricks such as deep breathing to relax her body. With the assistance of teachers and social workers, Siu Wai gradually mingled well with her classmates and made new friends. She has felt less anxious about how others looked at her.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Dec 13
Translation by John Chui
[Chinese version 中文版]
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