A new study suggests that being “awake” can lead to depression. The reality is much deeper

We are going through turbulent times. wars Death. destruction Rampant racism. The persistent gender gap. Oppression of minorities. The list is endless. Not only that, but people globally beat a Covid-19 induced pandemic. Now, with new research suggesting potential downsides to being constantly immersed in critical social justice discourse, there’s renewed discussion about its impact.

Being “woke” (often used as an insult to those individuals who are progressive in their political leanings), according to a new study, could lead to increased feelings of anxiety and depression.

Although the term “woke” originated in African American Vernacular English (AAVE), with roots in African American culture and activism, its historical connotations have evolved over time. Initially, “wokeness” was associated with those actively involved in racial justice and the fight against inequality. This premise still holds true, however, being “woke” in our day and age is an approved derogatory comment for those who are socially and politically aware, actively advocating for social justice.

Now, a new research conducted by a Finnish academic in the Scandinavian Journal of Psychology shows interesting findings. Stronger alignment with social justice stances is highly correlated with increased cases of anxiety and depression, according to the study.

The study suggests that the emergence of critical social justice, which focuses on correcting social wrongs such as systemic inequalities, can contribute to high levels of mental health problems.

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The study’s author, Oskari Lahtinen, recognizing the lack of empirical data on the impact and prevalence of critical social justice, decided to pursue it in order to develop a reliable tool to measure its effects.

“No reliable and valid instrument existed before the study to assess the extent and prevalence of these attitudes in different populations, so I set out to develop one,” Lahtinen, senior researcher at the INVEST flagship research center from the University of Turku and author of the book “Onko mindfulnessista mihinkn” (Is there something about mindfulness?) explained PsyPost.

We spoke to experts to find out more.

While research demonstrates the relationship between deviance from critical social justice principles and mental health illnesses, Dr Austin Fernandes, Psychiatrist at Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai, Mumbai, there is a need to dig deeper and understand this situation in more detail. “It’s not just about knowing and dealing with it systematic inequalities or social issues that produce anxiety and depression, but also how individuals interact with these concepts and how their own personal experiences give rise to their emotional health.”

“For many people, clear engagement in social justice causes can be intensified by a strong influx of ‘so-called consciousness’ of injustice around the world, thereby causing additional emotional strain. Similarly, these discussions often heat up, which registers high mental stress and anxiety in participants.People who face backlash or are rejected for their convictions can experience feelings of being alone and unhappy, which can even worsen the their mental health,” Dr. Fernandes added.

Similarly, Dr Ashima Ranjan, consultant-psychiatry, Yatharth Super Specialty Hospitals disagrees with the study, stating that while facing injustice and oppression in society, it can certainly be emotionally difficult and even traumatic, increased social awareness is generally associated with positive psychological outcomes.

“Many mental health professionals argue that developing a critical understanding of systemic issues such as racism, sexism and other forms of marginalization can foster a greater sense of empowerment, resilience and community support,” said Dr Ranjan. “However, recognizing these challenges as social problems rather than personal failings can help alleviate the feelings of shame, isolation and self-blame that often exacerbate mental health struggles,” she added.

social justice and mental health, mental health effects of awakening, is awakening bad for mental health, social justice anxiety depression, social activism and mental health, social justice burnout, negative impacts of social media in mental health Experts weigh in on the potential downsides of being “awake” and offer tips for maintaining a healthy balance. (Source: Freepik)

Dr Jyoti Kapoor, founder-director and senior psychiatrist, Manasthali, however, agreed with the study. “Being awake often involves staying informed about social issues, which can mean regularly encountering distressing news, videos, or discussions about topics like discrimination, violence, and oppression. Constant exposure to these traumatic events can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),“, explained.

He acknowledged that “being woke” can be empowering and contribute to positive social change, but it is essential that people prioritize their mental health and well-being. “Finding a balance between staying informed and taking care of yourself emotionally is crucial to navigating the complexities of social consciousness,” advised Dr. Kapoor.

Here are some expert-approved tips for striking the right balance:

Set boundaries: Limit your exposure to distressing news and social media content when it becomes overwhelming. Designate specific times to engage with social issues and prioritize activities that bring you joy and relaxation.

Practice self-compassion: Be kind to yourself and recognize that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed or tired sometimes. Treat yourself with the same empathy and understanding you would extend to others facing similar challenges.

Find support: Talk to trusted friends, family or mental health professionals about your feelings and experiences. Sharing your thoughts and emotions with others who understand can provide validation and perspective.

Cultivate resilience: Develop resilience by developing coping skills and strategies to manage stress. Practice mindfulness, positive self-talk, and problem-solving techniques to deal effectively with challenges.


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