Is social anxiety keeping you from finding love?
Social anxiety is a debilitating disorder that goes beyond simple shyness. It’s an intense feeling of fear that doesn’t go away and affects many everyday activities such as finding a romantic partner.
When meeting someone new it is completely normal to have first date jitters but someone with social anxiety (SAD) disorder often feels extremely worried before, during and after meeting a date causing them to avoid social interactions. This leaves them feeling isolated and with a sense of hopelessness of ever finding love.
If you are feeling this way – you are not alone. Mixed anxiety & depression is the most common mental disorder in Britain, with 7.8% of people meeting criteria for diagnosis.
The good news is that there are steps you can take to help you overcome SAD.
Fear of being judged
One of the reasons many people with social anxiety don’t share much about themselves is that they fear being judged negatively. This is often the root of the anxiety disorder and is amplified during a date setting. The disorder is warping their perception of how badly they are being judged by a date and causes them to act nervously or withdraw further validating their fears. When in reality the situation is not as they perceive it. The truth is – everyone is scared to be judged.
One way to deal with the fear of being judged is to pay close attention to your date. Focus on their tone of voice, their body language and actively listen to what they are saying. You’ll notice subtle signs like fast speech or fidgeting in their seat. You’ll soon realise that they are just as nervous as you. By focussing on the other person instead of your fears, you rob them of their hold over you.
If the first strategy doesn’t work there is a second way to approach fear of judgment which is called ‘reframing’. Social anxiety disorder can cause the person to have catastrophic thoughts hijacking their behaviour. An effective strategy is to notice, point out and contradict these dooming thoughts that often sound like this, “I’ll never find someone” or “that was a complete disaster”. When this happens gently remind yourself that your anxiety has taken the reigns and it is the disorder that is exaggerating your thoughts and feelings – not you. Look for evidence to confirm why they are not accurate. For example: “I’ll never find someone.’ Never? With nearly 7.5 billion people on this Earth? The possibility of finding someone is infinitely higher than not. Take that as evidence that it will happen, and it will help quell those gloomy predictions of disaster that can be so devastating to the process of finding love.
Share what matters to you
People with social anxiety disorder are less likely to engage with others out of fear of being judged or rejected. So when there’s a lack of communication, there is often a lack of connection since real relationships are built on shared experiences, thoughts and feelings. Sharing something might include letting your date know about a recent event or a person that is special to you, or by complimenting them on how great they look. Let them see what matters to you and start connecting on a deeper level.
Anxiety thrives by focusing on the future and the past, by worrying about what has gone and will go wrong. To tackle worry, practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is a conscious effort to focus on the present moment, the here-and-now. By connecting to the present moment with acceptance rather than judgment you will feel greater emotional awareness within.
Social anxiety disorder can be hard on the person dealing with it, but it is possible to overcome. If you are struggling you can find tons of free resources, help and advice online – it’s ok to ask for help!