Category Archives: Louise Boyle

Louise Boyle

Louise Boyle is a 4th year PhD candidate in the School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow. She is supervised by Prof. Chris Philo and Dr. Cheryl McGeachan. She can be contacted by e-mail:, or Twitter @Louise_eb


The social and anticipatory geography of Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety is defined in interpersonal terms as a ‘habit of fearful self-protection’ (Stravynski, 2014, 90). It is deeply entangled with an individual’s social and interpersonal environments, provoking intense distress for those who perceive social interactions and spaces to be threatening. The experience of social anxiety rupture the fabrics, places and spaces of everyday life; and it is fundamentally geographical, bound up in an intimate social geography of experience where anxiety, fear, embarrassment and shame occur across a range of social settings.Social anxiety is although a thoroughly anticipatory condition where anticipations of what could go wrong in future social settings, shape and inhibit future conducts, movements and relationships, sometimes shutting them down completely with serious implications for career, sociality and well-being. Where the individual seeks to avoid negatively anticipated experiences, they can reduce their social geography to one of home-bound isolation. crucially, these experiences work temporally in both directions, with memories of (real or imagined) past embarrassments, and their settings, being projected into anticipations of future difficulties.

Social anxiety is predominantly understood and treated within biomedical and cognitive frameworks. My doctoral research introduces a socio-spatial understanding of social anxiety to extremely limited accounts outside of these fields.  The intention is to shift the ‘framing’ of social anxiety from ‘disease’ to ‘dis-ease‘, in order to recognise the wider personal, social, interpersonal and cultural conditions that may cause and sustain social anxieties. I explore the everyday lived experience of social anxiety in order to trace everyday social practices, interactions and spaces that generate intense and distressing anxieties for the individual and the implications for social and emotional lives, education and employment and overall health and wellbeing.

As a qualitative researcher I am interested in personal and experiential accounts of health and illness however, due to the nature of social anxiety ‘traditional’ research methods (e.g. face-to-face/telephone interviews) may have been difficult and distressing for potential participants. Therefore, I employed online methods in the form of an online questionnaire and text-based, real-time online interviews.

See also: Anxious Spaces Blog

Select publications:

Boyle, L.E. (2018) The (un)habitual geographies of social anxiety disorder, Social Science and Medicine