According to data from Our World In Data, anxiety disorders come first in the list of mental disorders there are in the world. This means that you are not alone in seeking to find out how social anxiety affects your relationship because it is an issue faced by millions every day.
What is social anxiety disorder or social phobia?
Anxiety disorders, especially social anxiety, affect how a person relates with other people negatively. Such a person will develop feelings of fear for social situations because they are worried that they will be judged and looked down upon. Therefore they avoid going out much or communicating with others.
This can present a problem in relationships because communication and spending time with your partner are two of the biggest factors in maintaining relationship fulfillment and stability. It is, therefore, no wonder that research continually points to lesser relationship fulfillment when there is more anxiety from a partner in a romantic relationship.
Fret not, however, because, like most problems, this one has a solution. There are ways to beat social anxiety in relationships, but they will require some hard work from you and your partner. But before we go into the solutions, let’s find out more about how social anxiety affects your relationship.
7 Effects of social anxiety on relationships
Table of Contents
- Communication problems
A relationship with a social anxiety partner is likely to have problems due to an inability to properly convey feelings. When you have social anxiety, you might be overly worried about how your partner will react to certain things you say, so you avoid any issues by isolating yourself and shutting your partner out.
This leads to less satisfaction in the relationship for both of you because you would feel unable to talk about things that really affect you, while your partner will feel that you don’t open up to them enough.
- Becoming overly attached
According to several experts, social anxiety affects your relationship by making you overly dependent and attached to your partner. Social anxiety can make you feel alone and nervous, which leads to you trying to be with your partner all the time to overcome this loneliness.
Before you know it, you start feeling overly worried when they don’t return a single phone call or text, and you start getting jealous at the mere sight of your partner with someone else.
Experts note that social anxiety can also lead to a person showering their partner with so much attention that it might become suffocating to them, and they try to seek a way out.
- Lack of reciprocity
A sign you might have social anxiety disorder (if you don’t know already) is that you find it hard to reciprocate the love and attention shown to you by your partner.
When your partner tries to talk to you, you brush them off. When they try to be intimate, you don’t return the gesture, discouraging them from continuing. And when they open up to you, you keep your emotions bottled up.
This isn’t your fault; it is simply one of the things that social anxiety does because it affects one’s ability to be open with others.
- Lack of trust in partner
Social anxiety is known to cause trust issues in people due to feelings of inadequacy. For instance, you might believe that you aren’t good enough for your partner and so thoughts that they might be cheating on you creep in.
You might also feel like your partner isn’t supportive enough of your condition due to their persistent demands to be more sociable. These and other issues can lead to a breakdown in trust, which is hugely important in any relationship.
- A reduced social life
Relationships involve a lot of things, and one of them is going out to places, events, and engaging in social activities.
Unfortunately, social anxiety forces people to stay indoors to avoid the feeling of being embarrassed in front of others. As a result, you’ll find yourself avoiding activities like going out on dates, seeing your partner’s friends and family, or even going to work events.
- Aggression in relationship
The thing about feelings is that no matter how hard we try to suppress them, they still find a way to seep out.
With social anxiety preventing an affected person from being able to adequately talk about their feelings and things that affect them, they might be forced to express their feelings in other ways.
Research has noted that people with social anxiety can often be aggressive to their partners as a way to express these hidden feelings. There could be physical aggression such as physical abuse or psychological aggression such as the silent treatment and making crude remarks and insults.
- Resentment from partner
One of the biggest ways social anxiety affects relationships is its tendency to lead to resentment from partners.
With social anxiety causing a person to do things like refusing to open up to their partner, becoming overly attached, and avoiding social activities, it is understandable that a partner will get angry at the situation and feel some resentment about it.
If this resentment isn’t targeted early enough, it can grow to such a large extent that it threatens the survival of your relationship.
4 Ways to deal with social anxiety in relationships
- You should communicate
One way to overcome shyness/ social anxiety disorder in a relationship is to communicate with your partner from the get-go about what social anxiety is like. This will prepare them for some of the effects of anxiety when they manifest and encourage them to be more understanding.
As much as you can, you should also try to communicate how you really feel about certain things, and if you are unable to, simply tell them that you are anxious about discussing something with them.
If you have a good partner, they will encourage you to talk to them without judgment. Communication strategies like these will ensure that you can express your feelings by talking rather than other potentially destructive ways.
- Identify and evaluate main social anxiety behaviors
In a research paper on how to beat social anxiety disorder in relationships, there was an experiment that showed great promise.
The experiment involved the partner with social anxiety practicing self-introspection to identify and list their coping mechanisms when they felt anxious around their partner. These included such things as shutting their partners out or staying away from them.
The person was then told to reflect on how these mechanisms affected their interaction with their partners. The behaviors that were not well received by their significant other were then targeted and gradually reduced.
- Learn to compromise
While it might not be possible to get rid of shyness/ social anxiety disorder and its effects, you can attempt to mitigate them. One way to do so is to compromise in your relationship.
You won’t have to do everything your partner wants that gives you anxiety, but for the sake of the relationship, you should try to meet them halfway.
For instance, instead of going out every week, you can go out twice a month and explain to your partner that this is the best you can do. You could also look for activities that you can try out with your partner that won’t put you in the public eye.
Programming your mind to the fact that there are some activities you have to engage in will help you prepare for them mentally to reduce your chances of an anxiety episode.
- Plan ahead for events
In order to deal with social anxiety in relationships, tap into the power of planning ahead. If there are events you must attend, or activities you must engage in, plan ahead by coming up with ways you can calm yourself while you engage in them.
This plan can include alternative activities you can turn towards when you’re anxious or a place you can retreat to when you need a break. Also, have a plan to leave the event if you can’t stay any longer.
Be sure to tell your partner of this plan so that they understand if you disappear for a little while or get distracted doing something else to calm yourself down.
Also, check out what to do when your partner has anxiety to give your partner appropriate advice.
2 Ways to beat social anxiety
- Consider therapy
While it may not be entirely possible to fix shyness and social anxiety disorder, help exists that can reduce their effects to a point where you can have a normal life.
Trained professionals in therapy can help you by using tried and tested methods that will be tailored to your particular situation to get you the best help.
Therapy is also important because social anxiety often comes with other disorders that therapists are trained in detecting and treating.
- Using medication
Medicine has come a long way in the past century, so there is now medication to mitigate the effects of social anxiety. These drugs help by reducing the extreme feelings of anxiety to make it easier to face your fears and other issues.
However, these drugs can and should only be prescribed by a psychiatrist as they alone are trained in prescribing medication for mental illness.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you be in a relationship if you have social anxiety?
It is totally possible to be in a relationship even if you have social anxiety. Much like any other condition, there are ways to ensure that your situation doesn’t overly affect your relationship. They include going for therapy, communicating your condition to your partner ahead of time, and learning to compromise.
These are but some ways you can cope with anxiety in a relationship. The bottom line is that it is indeed possible to be with someone even if you have anxiety.
Is it hard to date someone with social anxiety?
It can be difficult dating someone who has social anxiety because the condition will most likely affect the relationship.
However, it is not impossible to date such a person. You will just have to work harder in the relationship and engage in certain activities to help your relationship bear the burden of social anxiety.
How do I build my relationship with social anxiety?
Some ways to ensure your relationships stays strong even with social anxiety include:
- Communicating issues that come with social anxiety.
- Communicating issues that affect you in the relationship and encouraging feedback from your partner.
- Identifying those coping mechanisms you engage in when you’re anxious around your partner and checking which ones lead to tension with them. Target these behaviors to reduce the tension.
- Going for therapy.
- Learning to compromise to meet your partner halfway. For instance, instead of not going out at all, you could go out twice a month.
- Planning ahead for events to get your mind in the right space.
Having social anxiety doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love and get into a relationship; it just means that you have to work hard at it. This isn’t too bad when you realize that you would still have to work hard to maintain a relationship even without social anxiety. Every relationship needs work, just different types of work.
Also, if you aren’t seeking treatment already, we recommend that you do so because anxiety doesn’t only affect you mentally, but physically as well. It is therefore very important that you work on your anxiety so that you can control it and not the other way around.
We would like to know…
How did you find out that you had social anxiety?
- Took a quiz online
- Diagnosed by a medical professional