Statistics shows that about 3.7 percent of the U.S. population ages 18 to 54—approximately 5.3 million Individuals are diagnosed with a social phobia each year. Social phobia occurs in women twice as often as in men, although there is a higher volume of men that seek help for this disorder.
Dating is a challenging process, no matter how much you and another individual have in common. You worry about how to dress, how top style your hair, when to go on a date, the best location, what to talk about, what topics to avoid and so forth. When individuals with social anxiety disorder want to date, an additional challenge related to anxiety manifests.
Individuals with social anxiety tend to pass up chance to date which can lead to greater feelings of inadequacy. Avoidance can occur in many ways. For example, some may tell romantic interests that they have other plans, or they agree to plans and end up canceling because of the possibilities of something going wrong. Individuals with social anxiety tend to avoid dating because they fear of the worst social mishaps.
Those who battle with social anxiety that impacts their ability to date can learn how to deal with their fears in a more balanced manner. Social anxiety disorder or social phobia can be treated effectively with Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This is one of the most effective and widely used therapies for anxiety disorders. CBT can be used to help individuals with social anxiety by challenging their worst catastrophic fears.
Exposure therapy falls under the umbrella of CBT and it helps those who experience social anxiety test their fears. Exposure consists of patients experiencing their feared social situation in a manner that is structured in a fear hierarchy. With regards to dating, the fear hierarch would set up situations from the least feared situation, such as texting a person, to a higher fear, such as initiating a kiss.
It is with building tolerance to social mishaps as well as challenging the view of inadequacy that persons with social anxiety can improve their ability to interact with those whom they are attracted to.
–Kevin Caridad, LCSW, PhD
Director, NSAC Pittsburgh
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