Dr Dougal Sutherland talks 'Anger, Anxiety & Us'
Dr Dougal Sutherland talks 'Anger, Anxiety & Us'

Clinical psychologist shares views on wider consequences of lockdown anxiety

Leah Panapa 13/12/2021

LISTEN: On Sunday, TVNZ aired a special programmed called Anger, Anxiety & Us, fronted by journalist John Campbell, who dived into the darker sides of our human reaction to COVID and lockdowns.

The news special uncovered how in the space of 18 months, our front-line workers -  who were held up as a shining example for Kiwis doing the right thing - were now being subjected to abuse and online attacks from those aggravated by the current COVID and political climate.

“We’re doing this show because the stories of people getting abused, when they are simply doing their jobs, need to be shared,” said TVNZ’s Sophie Baird, who is helping lead the show’s development.

“We’ve chosen to talk to the front-line workers facing the hatred because, although there have recently been attacks on the media, to assume we know what it’s like for others would be both arrogant and poor journalism.

“We’ve also spoken to experts to help us understand human behaviour; we’ve spoken to organisers from Groundswell and Hone Harawira to understand what drives people to protest; we’ve spoken to social media experts to understand technology’s role; and we’ve spoken to some teenagers to help us shed light on where to from here.”

Clinical psychologist at Victoria University of Wellington Dr Dougal Sutherland reviewed the special with Magic Mornings host Leah Panapa.

When asked if the entire world is seeing an increase in anxiety and anger and why that is, Sutherland responded "I think what the show tried to say was that sometimes anxiety manifests as anger"

Most people have heard of the fight or flight response when people get anxious and the fight part of the fight or flight response as anger and aggression.

"So if you feel anxious or threatened, then one automatic way of responding is to get angry because it's a protective measure. "

Sutherland went on to explain that another key part of why peoples anger and frustration has increased over the past year has been due to our online browsing habits.

"I think also that I think the internet is a big part of it as well in terms of you... and by 'you' I mean, any of us can spend time hearing our voices repeated back to us. You know, there's this concept of an echo chamber where you spend a lot of time just hearing voices that are similar to yours.

"And if you're talking to people who are really frustrated and angry, then it tends to make you feel even more frustrated and angry as well. And so you leave the house already feeling angry, irritable about about what your perception is that there's been a violation of your rights or something like that"

Listen to the full interview with Dr Dougal Sutherland above.

Magic Talk | Mornings with Leah Panapa, weekdays from 9am

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