Lay understandings of anxiety: A qualitative study

Student thesis: Master Thesis and HD Thesis

  • René Omar Dhahir
4. term, Psychology, Master (Master Programme)
In this master’s thesis, I explore the lay understanding of anxiety. The research ques-tion of this master’s thesis is as follows:
“How do laypeople understand anxiety?”
As a solid foundation for conducting a study in laypeople’s understanding, anxiety and anxiety disorders are firstly described through a historic review focusing on the West-ern understanding, dating from the Ancient Greeks and Romans till the modern diag-nostic manuals DSM-5 and ICD-11. Secondly, the diagnostic description, prevalence and comorbidity of anxiety disorders are presented. Lastly, anxiety is presented from five theoretical perspectives: an evolutionary psychological, a biological psychological, a cognitive psychological, a personality psychological and a social psychological. To establish an understanding of the study of laypeople, a description of lay studies is pre-sented followed by a short literature review of various studies focusing on lay under-standing of mental disorders. Thereafter the method of this master’s thesis is presented. The thesis submits a pragmatic scientific approach to generating and managing knowledge. Following, the methodology of group interviews is presented, considering both preparations of an interview, conducting the interview and reflecting upon ethical aspects. As part of the method, the analytical approach, thematic analysis of content, is presented. This is followed by the analysis of the two conducted group interviews con-sisting of nine laypeople, where citations are commented upon from an analytical standpoint focusing on answering the research question. The analytic coding of the interviews results in five major themes: general associations to anxiety, the manifesta-tion of anxiety, the consequences of anxiety, the causes of anxiety, and the prevention and treatment of anxiety. The findings of the analysis are then discussed in three parts. Firstly, how the findings of the master’s thesis supports, or contradicts or complements the studies in the conducted literature review. Secondly, the quality of the current study is evaluated and discussed using qualitative criteria such as credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Thirdly, it is discussed whether the findings of the current study suggest any further studies into the subject of laypeople’s understanding of anxiety, or other mental disorders, as well as whether the findings suggest a call to action on spreading awareness of mental disorders and enhancing current interven-tions. Finally, it is concluded that laypeople have a limited and arbitrary knowledge of anxiety as a mental disorder and that more action should be taken to improve laypeo-ple’s mental health literacy, as well as that future studies should strive to explore differ-ent methods and factors of the lay understanding of mental disorders.
Publication date1 Jun 2023
Number of pages69
ID: 532382708