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As a user, I have noticed that there doesn't seem to be much overall consideration or discussion about this topic. Now as a user with anxiety this is pretty important to me and I would like it to be considered how we can make Stack Exchange a more welcoming and friendlier place for those with anxiety especially when it comes to chats and answers.

For context, things such as user conflict, all caps messages, and basically anything that indicates someone is angry or upset with me triggers my anxiety, but everyone's triggers are somewhat different.

Is there something I or others can do to help and support users with an anxiety disorder in the context of Stack Exchange?

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    Could you give an example of what sorts of moments feel unwelcoming? – goodguy5 Oct 3 at 19:16
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    Hey Gwideon! Do you have examples of what exactly triggers your anxiety? (or trigger people anxiety in general?). I believe it would greatly help people answering your question (especially since it's pretty broad right now) – BelovedFool Oct 3 at 19:18
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    @Ælis Things such as all caps (which usually indicates screaming/shouting), Overly harsh or antagonistic commets. basically anything that makes me feel like i've upset or made someone mad at me. – Gwideon Oct 3 at 19:23
  • @goodguy5 Any form of user conflict or anything that would indicate things like shouting or arguments make me particularly anxious. – Gwideon Oct 3 at 19:26
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    @Gwideon I would advise staying away from meta for the next couple of days... – Script47 Oct 3 at 19:28
  • @Script47 Oh yeah I know – Gwideon Oct 3 at 19:28
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I have anxiety issues too and I find that the stack "Interpersonal Skills" (also called "IPS") does a very good job at not triggering it.

IPS does moderate differently from the rest of the network. We are very strict about comments and also expect answers to be strongly backed up.

Questions on IPS tend to be very personal and can touch delicate issues like race, gender, etc... So this is why we had to come up with ways to be extra-careful not to hurt the other person feelings when leaving a comment/answering a question.


About comments

We don't allow people to argue or chitchat in comments. And, if people want to suggest an improvement, they need to do it in a very explicit way (as to not be seen as a personal attack).

This is all described here but the core of the answer is:

  • Don't say "I disagree".

  • Instead, ask "What makes you think that? Do you have external sources I could read to learn more about that?".

Phrasing comments like that avoid a lot of conflicts. And, if there is still conflict remaining, you can trust the mod to quickly step in and erase all traces of it. In fact, mods even have a canned comment that says something like that:

If you disagree with the answer you can downvote, if you think you can write a better answer please do so. Asking someone to fundamentally change their answer isn't 'suggesting an improvement' and it's not what comments are for.

With those two comment rules, unless you are in the wrong place at the wrong time (meaning, the community hasn't had the time to clean stuff yet), you won't see any conflict.


About answers

There could be conflict in answers to. Fortunately, we also have a rule for that.

It's all explained here and here, but the important parts are the following:

Responding to "How do I $x?" with "Doing $x is inexcusable and/or evil." is inappropriate. [...] Telling someone "Don't believe that, it's wrong' isn't an answer on this stack.

Answer the actual question that is asked. If someone is asking 'People know my age online, and aren't taking me seriously because of it, how do I ask them to stop?", the answer IS NOT to tell someone not to tell their age online.

However, IPS does allow answers that suggest a "work-around" to achieve what the OP wants to achieve while still respecting the premise of the question.

By doing this, we avoid conflict in answers.


About chat

Sorry, I don't have much here (and it's getting late), so I'll let someone else answer that part.

However, here are still some ground rules I try to follow for myself:

  • If something makes you uncomfortable, say so.

  • If a discussion is triggering your anxiety, ask people to move the conversation in another chat or to ping you when said conversation is over (we do that in "The Awkward Silence" and it works fine).

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Most of what you describe is removed by the systems and processes that are in place. If a user types in all caps, someone typically edits it to be mixed case. If a question is ranty or argumentative, again it is typically edited to leave just the actual question. Answers that are rude and abusive are deleted. Same with comments.

I am not sure what other support you feel an anxious user needs. Perhaps it is enough to remind such users that time fixes a lot of bad posts, and not to quickly click on a brand new question or a brand new answer when looking at the default page for the site. Try the posts that have been around a little longer. They are likely to be in better shape.

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