is the third largest mental health care problem after alcoholism and depression. It affects approximately 15 million American adults in America alone. The average or usual age of onset for social anxiety disorder is the teenage years. Individuals who are diagnosed with social anxiety disorder commonly report extreme shyness in childhood.
Social anxiety disorder
is the fear of social circumstances that involves interaction with other people. Individuals with this disorder feel fear and anxiety of being negatively judged and evaluated by other people. It affects the quality of life by resulting in social withdrawal. It is a chronic disorder as it does not go away on its own and also causes people to experience distress or disability. Only direct cognitive-behavioral therapy can help people overcome their social anxiety.
Social Anxiety Disorder And Romantic Relationships
- On the other hand, relationships, particularly romantic relationships, are the central aspect of human life. Social anxiety is associated with difficulty in forming and maintaining close relationships.
- Though people typically are susceptible to day-to-day stress exhibiting worry about their relationships like fear of the dating process, trouble communicating with their partner, etc. But having an untreated anxiety disorder can highly affect a person's romantic life.
- People with a social anxiety disorder constantly worry about being judged by others, so they may avoid dating or romantic relationships due to the fear of embarrassment. It is also common that people with a generalized anxiety disorder may have trouble with managing relationships or dating, as they worry about their partner abandoning them. However, people do not have to be diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder for anxiety to interfere in their romantic relationships.
- The symptoms of social anxiety, either physical or psychological, interfere with all types of communication. These symptoms are persistent and disabling, and their effect is often compounded by insufficient social skills that are the inescapable price of a lifetime of avoidant behavior.
- Individuals with social anxiety disorder face insecurities and lack of self-confidence, which makes it difficult for them to imagine building a successful and long-lasting romantic partnership. Even though they desire to have a successful and lasting romantic relationship the most, but with their stakes being so high, their fear of being judged and rejection is more severe, making them hesitant to take any chances. Still, they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, but they feel powerless against their anxiety.
- Their poor self-image possibly will disrupt their hopes, even if the other person reaches out to them first. Their being too nervous or intimidated results in letting down their guard, frozen by anxiety to express themselves clearly, inadvertently pushing the other person away and falling into their innate mode of self-protection despite their wish of no to.
People with social anxiety disorder
1-Have a lot of worries that prevent them from dating or pursuing relationship
2-Rely heavily on their partners to reassure themselves or calm their anxious thoughts.
3-Avoid serious conversations with their partner because they are afraid of conflict.
4-Experience increased anxiety around sexual intimacy.
5-Continuously fear that their partner is going to leave them.
6-Experience anxiety when their partner is away.
7-Convince themselves that their partner is unfaithful to them without any evidence or logical reason.
How Social Anxiety Disorder Undermines Relationships
- The quality of romantic relationships is inversely related to social anxiety. Research by Christian Hahn at Western University shows that there is a direct link between higher levels of social anxiety and lower levels of relationship satisfaction as social anxiety disorder deciphers to less trust and perceived support from partners.
- Individuals with anxiety disorders and their romantic partners are more critical of one another when discussing a problematic topic than other normal couples. People with anxiety disorders experienced the problem-solving discussion as more stressful and were more upset by their partners’ criticism, and this intervened in the relationship between diagnosis and relationship satisfaction. Anxious individuals are likely to be criticized more by their romantic partners than normal people because of their habits due to anxiety.
- In simple words, social anxiety causes people to become more critical of their partners. This behaviour may be the reason of their partners also being critical about them. This all contributes to relationship dissatisfaction. Thus, anxious individuals exacerbate their relationship difficulties by being critical themselves.
- They sometimes struggle to notice positive feedback. They can also be overbearing, attempting to control significant others as a way to reduce their own insecurities and are overly clingy. Anxious people demonstrate their anxiety via jealousy and are most likely to turn away from a relationship or hold back parts of themselves to evade rejection.
- Social anxiety symptoms are associated with a greater desire to avoid conflict when interacting with partners, family members, and friends. They generally avoid discussing areas of conflict in their relationship with their romantic partners.
Role of Social Media in Relationships of Socially Anxious People
- Social media is one of the significant things of this century. These sites offer new and exciting opportunities to network with people, and apart from other normal individuals, its usage is also common among people with social anxiety.
- The Internet acts as a protective layer to socializing that leaves individuals with social anxiety disorder feeling safe and secure. Also, the online dating sites, some of which are specifically built to cater to the men and women with social anxiety, are another way to make connections that could lead to romantic relationships. People with social anxiety find it easier to build relationships virtually as they don’t have to face other people in-person, which is difficult for them.
- Even if these socially anxious men and women are not able to sustain their romantic relation, this way gives them the chance to experience what it is like to be in a loving relationship and an overall interactive experience with other human beings.
- A study has found out that 19 percent of romantic relationships that result in marriage are started through online contacts. This also includes 17 percent of spouses who met through online dating sites or apps and 2 percent who first came into contact over social media platforms.
- It must be remembered that social media and social anxiety are not a perfect match. Virtually made connections cannot replace face-to-face interactions; they are just a mere replacement for the real thing. Social skills cannot be developed over the internet as interacting people in real situations gives the confidence to deal with people and face social situations.
- On the other hand, authentic relationships such as romantic ones cannot be built by remaining behind the walls of social sites and dating platforms that offer anonymity and physical separation. Because if a romantic relationship only remains virtual, it may only strengthen social anxiety and the isolation that goes together with it.
- In simple words, social media and its twigs are helpful in opening doorways for socially anxious individuals that might otherwise remain closed. Social media and dating platforms can help in avoiding the initial awkward stages of socialising that overwhelm or intimidate social anxiety sufferers. But if this contact or relationship does not progress to something intimate and direct, it will lead to nowhere and make the person with social anxiety to feel even more lonely and frustrated than before.
- While social anxiety undoubtedly complicates both romantic and social relationships, people still have an optimistic outlook. They have to keep warning signs in mind and focus on open and honest communication; partners who love each other can combat negative consequences by working together
- They can effectively overcome their social anxiety through direct cognitive-behavioral therapy. If you are dealing with any sort of social anxiety, schedule an appointment with a certified professional to have a therapy session. Hypnotherapy consultation for anxiety has been found highly effective in treating symptoms of social anxiety and has enabled thousands to live and enjoy a full life.
- During treatment for anxiety disorders, counsellors focus on perceived criticism and emotional reactions to criticism for improving treatment outcomes and to provide anxious individuals’ relationship satisfaction. Individual therapies for anxiety disorders also help people to modify the attributions they make for their partners’ criticism. If the individuals make more positive and less negative attributions, they will also be less critical.
- Therapies will help anxious individuals to decrease their criticism of their partners, which then have an indirect effect on reducing their partners’ criticism of them and lowering the overall level of negativity in the relationship. Couples can also benefit from adjunctive 107 couples’ therapy that aims to decrease criticism in the relationship.