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My boyfriend (28 yrs old) of over a year has severe (or what I think is...) social anxiety disorder. I love him and want to help him, but I don't know how. He has admitted to me (finally) that he does in fact have social anxiety but has not spoken about this to anyone other than me before and is not willing to speak with a doctor. (Is it hereditary? I believe his father has some sort of anxiety as well, but am not positive).

He talks with his head down most of the time - even when he's listening to what I'm saying he doesn't look me in the eye. I have the hardest time getting him to come to social events with me - such as weddings, dinners, parties, etc. and it usually ends us up in fights. Whether the occasion is with my family or friends he will always come up with an excuse as to why he cannot come, or he'll say that he doesn't want to commit to something that he will feel uncomfortable at and then let me down when he doesn't end up going with me. He doesn't like the feeling he has before he commits to the event, while he's at the event, or after the event is over. The only reason he will go is because he knows I want him there - but I feel guilty "forcing" him to do something that makes me happy but makes him feel uncomfortable.

I want to marry him - my love for him is too deep to let this/him go. I want my family and friends to know the person that I plan on spending the rest of my life with, but right now I feel it seems to them that he is too stuck up to hang out with them and I don't want that image of him in their head, but I can't talk to them about this because I have sworn to him that I wouldn't "tell his secret".

Is there anything I can do for him - besides be patient with him - that will help him get through some of his anxiety without the help of medication?
Rosequartz is right, this disorder will not improve without help, in fact, it is more likely to become worse. There is no amount of love and patience on anyones part that will help him, unless he is 100% involved in his own recovery.

Keeping his "secret" is not a healthy approach. Making the lifelong commitment to marry this man, without facing his anxiety disorder is a recipe for failure. Would you marry a man with cancer, if he refused treatment for it? Diabetes, Heart Disease, Kidney disease, Alcoholism, etc. ? These are examples of other illnesses that people face everyday, and deal with. Why is his disorder any less important to address?

What about children? Do you want your children to have a father who cannot attend school plays, little league games, award nights, parent teacher conferences? Do you want your children to have a father who cannot look them in the eye?

What makes it OK for you to face a life alone, but married? Think about yourself...what about company parties, family get togethers, date night? Are you willing to always be alone, or with a man who is terribly uncomfortable? I think you need to think about what you are missing out on already...and refuse to devote yourself to someone who refuses to take part in your life, and interests, in order to be ill.

Have you asked him any tough questions about his role in this relationship? What does he offer you? You need a healthy partner, not a liability. He needs to step up to the plate and swing, not to hide in the dugout.
Hi, lovinggf. I spent most of four years in a relationship with social phobia. I acted a lot like your boyfriend, maybe a little worse. The best thing my husband ever did for me was convincing me to go to a mental health clinic and get professional help. My life changed almost overnight once on medication. Of course, I'd been slowly taking baby steps toward getting better on my own, but the medication and counseling was the final push that allowed me to be fully functional.

I am so very grateful that my husband stuck by me through that time, so your dedication touches a soft spot in me. That level of patience is probably too much to ask of anybody. That said, your boyfriend really does have to want to change. It might be that he wants to, but doesn't believe it's possible or that he's capable of it. Low self esteem tends to go hand in hand with social anxiety, along with a fierce arrogance. My advice:
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*Help build his self-esteem, both by loving him and encouraging him to do things that will make him feel better about himself.

*Let go of what your family and other people think. If they're perceptive, they might already suspect that something is up. If not, they might think he's stuck up. Either way, they're not going to understand, and if you let that judgment get to you your relationship is going to suffer. Mental health is still a misunderstood and taboo subject, and really, someone who has not experienced it cannot understand how incredibly painful social anxiety can be. To me it felt like being run through a meat grinder, just from being around people. In my experience, it helped to tell people that I was shy. People that have no idea what social anxiety is can sometimes accept "shy".

*Encourage positive social interactions. This is easier said than done. The longer I was isolated, the worse the anxiety was when I did have to be around someone. On the other hand, being around people hurt. But the more positive social experiences you have, the easier it is to feel better around yourself, improve your social skills, and get better. If you have any good friends that can accept him, I'd recommend hanging out together, even if he's mostly quiet, rather than drag him to big events like weddings and parties - though I think it'd be good for both of you if you did that now and then too.

*Encourage medication and counseling. The right sort of counseling for someone with social anxiety is hard to find. The first few counselors I tried only had to say, "You know you need to fix yourself," to get me running out the door. I experienced so much self-loathing and longed so much to be better that to hear it put so bluntly, as if it were easy, was too insulting. The littlest things broke my trust. The best counselor I found was at a public mental health clinic that worked on a sliding scale. She worked there because she wanted to help people, and it was obvious that she not only cared more but had more practical experience.

And finally, medication. Everyone's different and I'm not a doctor, so I have no idea how effective it is for everybody, but it changed my life. I was put on an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication and immediately felt very stable, and best of all, it didn't hurt to talk to people. No more meat grinder, or worrying for hours what people thought of me, or running over my memories to see if I had done anything wrong. I cared a lot less of what people thought of me. Now I'm free to talk and be around others and live.

*Talk to him about his goals. Does he want children? To be rid of the anxiety? To have a few good friends or to have a certain career? These might be incentives for him to seek help.
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Take care of yourself too, okay? Rosequartz brings up a good question: is this something you are willing to deal with for the rest of your life? You might be able to help him (and my husband certainly helped me) but then again, maybe you can't. My husband has some mental issues himself, and I've found that the best way to approach it is to work on making it better but be prepared to deal with it for the rest of your life, too. I hate his problems, I wish he didn't have them, but to me, living with him far outweighs that. You may have to come to that decision yourself. Don't do anything that makes you unhappy.
Thank you very much for your comments - it's really helping me through this difficult time.
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I should have specified and said that he doesn't look me in the eye when arguing - when we're having conversations on a regular basis he is "normal". However, when telling a story (for example telling his parents how our vacation was - explaining the food, our room, the island, etc.) he would look down and not directly at them except for a quick glance up.

I am trying my hardest to let go of what my family and friends think, but coming from a big group of friends (14 girls from college who are (almost) all getting married; and a big Italian family) who wonder where he is at all these events and it comes to a point where I just say he's not coming. I have even tried planning double dates where it is a small group so that he'll feel more comfortable when we are at larger occasions but we've yet to go on one. I have even been warned by his own mother to be careful of my decisions because it will only hurt me in the end. (I mentioned that his father may have anxiety - but I believe it to be more of a slight depression - he is constantly bringing up sad news that he's heard, or not wanting to go on a cruise unless his entire family is there in case something happens, etc.) His mother has told me that if I don't want to live my life missing events then I should really consider my relationship with him. But I can't imagine my life without him in it.

Yes, he does want kids - boys specifically. Our discussions on our future are great because we can say what we really want and are very open with each other - but the immediate future is what is the issue since those involve plans that he'll have to commit to. He has said that he promises that if I give him at least a year to work out his problems that he will get better at this, but I told him that he should really consider talking to someone who could really help him - help him have a more fulfilling life. His answer to that is that he's the happiest he's ever been and that he doesn't think his problems with anxiety are in the way. And then we enter another argument.

I'm afraid that the only way he'll recognize this as being a serious problem is if I'm gone and he realizes that he lost what made him the happiest he's ever been. I dread that day. :(
Hi Lovinggf,

My boyfriend suffered with social anxiety. Before he met me, he just thought he had to live with it. He had a fear of doctors and would never consider seeing one. I gently brought him out of himself and made him explain the reason why he was so afraid to get help. He basically thought that he was a hopeless case, and that he didn't want to waste the gp's time. He also had a fear of the doctor because of traumatic memories of doctor visits in his childhood.
I talked each reason he had through with him and managed to make him see the reality of the situation, not the distorted idea he had in his mind. I showed him information on anxiety disorder on the net and he finally saw that he didn't have some rare condition that was incurable. Many, many people have some form of social anxiety, and its treatable. I also talked to him and explained what it's really like to visit the GP. I told him that the doctor is really friendly and kind, and that there was nothing scary about him or his office.

He finally took the plunge, got a prescription for beta blockers, and he's never looked back. He says he can't believe it took him so long to get help. He just didn't have anyone to help him get over his fears, he had kept it all inside for so long.

Now, the important thing to remember is that my boyfriend wanted help. He was scared and needed lots of encouragement, but because he actually wanted help, he managed to get it.

If your boyfriend doesn't want to change, you can talk until you're blue in the face, but he won't change. Its up to him to take the first step. You can hold his hand, but he needs to actually take the step himself.

Has he ever expressed a desire to change? Does he open up with you and trust you with his feelings? If he shuts you out, you'll never get through to him, nor he to you.

Can I ask what brought you together in the first place? What are his good qualities? You need to weigh up the positives with the negatives. If the positives are enough to make you accept the negatives, then stay. But remember that you will have to accept the negatives. If you marry him and have kids, you can't keep expecting him to change. You accept him as he is, and make your peace with it. Remember, its up to him.

Take care :wave:
[QUOTE=lovinggf;4065296]His answer to that is that he's the happiest he's ever been and that he doesn't think his problems with anxiety are in the way.
[/QUOTE]

You might point out to him that he does have a good reason to try it - to make you happy. He may feel that his anxiety is not hurting him, but he can't deny that it is causing problems for you. If he is as dedicated to making you happy as you are to him, he should be willing to give it a try. I believe that if both people in a relationship are 100% dedicated to making each other happy, there's little you can't overcome.

Edit: By the way, I couldn't agree more with Genova77's advice. I'd have said all the same things.
I just flashed on your wedding, how will he possibly get through the wedding planning, the groomsmen, the rehearsal dinner...not to mention the ceremony, the family, the spotlight on you two...Unless you are willing to give all that up, and go to the courthouse.

Not knowing what life would be like without him, is not a reason to marry. I would try out a little life without him, and find out how wonderful it will be to join your friends and family, that you love so much. I am sure that they miss you too...

Listen to his mother, she has seen it all.

I am not in any way suggesting that counseling and medication, if called for, would not be the best route for him to take, but he has to take it, because it is his choice to recognize, and overcome this. As we know, many people do, and we applaud them.
Genova77-are you still with your boyfriend? Does he ever relapse? Do you see any of the same symptoms that he had before he got help?

My boyfriend has said that he knows what he has to do but that it's not going to happen anytime soon or over night. He's happy that I'm there and have made him talk about it and bring it out in the open, but he knows that he is the only one that can do something about it and that if I can't be patient then he understands.

He trusts me- opens up to me, but this dialog has just started about his anxiety and I feel like he's getting frustrated and fed up with me bringing it up and forcing him to talk about it more with me so I can help him see his problem.

His friend was my cousins trainer and we met through them. Aside from his anxiety problems we are very compatible. When we're alone- which we typically are- we have a great time together; we have great conversations, can make each other laugh, have the same values and most of all we trust each other.

Lysander- I'd say 90% of our arguments are over our social life. And in that respect I believe I put in a lot more effort than he does. However the rest of our relationship is fairly even.

Writeleft- "funny" you should say that. I'm not exactly positive we'd have the fairy tale wedding I'm hoping for UNLESS he did seek help. Which would not be ok with me. It would be something I'll have to really consider.

Thank you again for all your support. I can't explain to you how grateful I am.
[I]Note: I must say that I don't agree with some of the responses here. I feel like more sensitivity is warranted for not only lovinggf but for her boyfriend as well as well as the love they have for each other.[/I]

Social Anxiety Disorder sucks [I]for both of you[/I]. It's extremely disabling. Have you suggested to him that you would go see a psychologist with him? Perhaps that would make him feel safer. Because, god... when he gets help for it, his life will be completely different. I suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder and was the exact same way as he is. BUT, I got help about ten or so years ago(both therapy as well as medication). Now, I have loads of friends, actually LIKE being the center of attention, can go out by myself, etc etc. It's like the real me was finally set free.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy would help him a lot. Again, suggest seeing a psychologist (might be less intimidating for him as they're not going to prescribe med's), offer to go with him, try not to make a big deal of it, just say "oh come on, i'll go with you. and don't forget you're doing this for [I]both[/I] of us...it'll help our relationship bigtime. When we go, i'll wait in the waiting room if you want or i can go in with you to see the doctor. might as well give it a try! Lets give it a shot and take it one step at a time. and...i love you! "
So, he's admitted that he thinks he has some anxiety issue (which was a big step for him, btw!) but not necessarily social anxiety? I'd suggest looking up some websites that list symptoms for s.a.d. (oh, btw, writing out s.a.d. reminded me to tell you that he is probably depressed ... we both know he doesn't want to be that way). It might open his eyes when he says "yeah, I have that and that and that and that.." and realize that it's something real that he can get help for.
Also, message boards (like this one) could help him GREATLY. He can be completely anonymous, read what others say thereby realizing he's not alone and if he wants to post...it's completely anonymous! I would even promise to him that you won't go to the message board he's going to. That way he won't hold back while posting.

Best of luck to you both. And big hugs to you for being there to support him :)
But, like everyone else said, DON'T forget yourself. As a VERY last resort, if it comes to a point where he completely refuses to try to get better, tell him that it's impacting not only your relationship but YOUR personal life greatly and that if he doesn't get help you're going to have to rethink the relationship. I would HATE for it to come to that, but if you think it might snap him into action...you'd be helping the both of you at the same time.

xo
[QUOTE=lovinggf;4065398] Aside from his anxiety problems we are very compatible. When we're alone- which we typically are- we have a great time together; we have great conversations, can make each other laugh, have the same values and most of all we trust each other. [/QUOTE]


i.e. His anxiety is hurting both of your lives. Despite how you are when it's just the two of you (which is great!), you don't want to spend your life just being around one person. You'll end up driving each other mad if nothing else. Humans NEED to interact with others. I'm not just worried about him here but you as well. [B]You[/B] need to be able to get out, be with friends and go places with or without him and without feeling guilty.

I really hope he gets help. I'll be thinking about you two.
This situation is a double edged sword. You are most likely the first person he's been able to be totally honest about his situation, fears, anxieties, phobias etc etc, but he will likely keep a lot of stuff 'secret', even from you. My ex husband of 8 years had OCD and social anxiety, but the social anxiety wasn't to the extent of your boyfriend's.

I noticed when we began dating that he constantly thought people in the street were looking "at" him. I'd tell him that perhaps they found him attractive and wanted to look and merely laughed it off. Other times i'd tell him they were looking "through" him, not "at" him. None of this helped and i realised he was serious when he'd began asking if there was anything on his face or was his hair sitting right, did he look weird etc etc as people were "always" looking at him.

Next we had issues going to a cafe for a simple coffee as people were looking at him there too. They were watching him eat or drink and it made him super self conscious.

At the time he was studying and said that he thankfully only has to do one day a week at his course and the other days he can study from home. I thought this was good as it saved travelling back and forth from the course. What i found out much later down the track was that he did this to avoid being with people. This also led to him falling behind in his studies by 6 months and his parents had to pay some major fees to cover extra time. Mind you he was 26 years old. I much later learnt he did this with university too and eventually dropped out as he failed classes due to not turning up altogether.

After we married he complained that he was not going to anymore job interviews as nobody was going to select him for the job. He did get repeat interviews, but the other person always got it, so he said he was giving up. He was in the IT industry so i told him why doesnt he work from home (BIG MISTAKE and biggest regret of my life). I didn't know quite how bad he was and was later to learn a lot more things about him. So working from home, running a business, having social anxiety is not really a formula for success. He'd have panic attacks and phone me at work in a total panic because he couldn't find an item of clothing or some other thing which he needed. He couldn't calm down and be rational, he'd break into a sweat and have a total panic attack because he couldn't find where he'd put the last remaining screw for the computer case which he had to deliver to someone.

So getting these calls from him repeatedly while i was at work set my nerves on edge. He wasn't making much money as he'd talk people through fixing their basic computer issues for free so he'd not have to visit them and go out in public. We were living with his parents because we couldn't afford to move out with just my wage and he was constantly wanting to have children, saying that if we had children "things would change".

He did go to weddings and other social functions, but could never get used to eating out in public as people were always watching him. He never danced except our wedding waltz.

In the end he hardly worked at all and any jobs he did get with companies he walked out on within months because he couldn't handle it. He always had some excuse for not working but lots of ideas and schemes on making money, sort of like living in a fantasy land.

I spent 8 years trying to "fix" him. He had been the love of my life. We had been so compatible to the point people couldn't believe just how suited we were. The oldies used to call us Romeo and Juliet. If only they'd known what was happening bit by bit. Halfway through he began using emotional abuse/blackmail. I figure now that that was his only way of holding onto me so i'd not leave. He'd blame me for everything, which i later found out was his typical pattern. He'd tell me he was going to suicide, he'd tell me that i could leave if i wanted but nobody else would want me.

So it basically went from me loving and caring for him and wanting to help, to him turning on me in an emotionally destructive sort of way to the point that now i'm still affected by the things he's said and done and i needed counselling myself just to leave the relationship, as i felt guilty in leaving him behind. I felt as though i was leaving a child behind. My problem was that i was too giving, too tolerant and understanding.

He refused counselling while i was with him, telling me that i was the crazy one and i needed it, not him. But then people who need counselling are often in denial.

Since i've left him he has found a job, but it took forever and did get counselling for some of his issues, but only after he phoned lifeline saying he was having suicidal thoughts. He found the counselling helpful in certain areas and liked his counsellor but then she got a job elsewhere and he didn't feel the new person was helping, so he stopped. He still has issues which i think he'll always have but at least he's coping better and has moved on.

In short, it's good to "help" someone but don't help to the point where you feel responsible for him and you end up shoulding all his issues to the point you begin to suffer emotionaly. It's very deceiving. You think you are in control of the situation and you are just 'helping' him, but these types of people can pull you into the quicksand with them if you aren't careful. Only a professional can truly help and you should leave it up to a professional, while you can give support and encouragement from the sidelines.

My counsellor actually told me to in future leave "strays" by the roadside as they couldnt be fixed. I thought it harsh, but when i look back, i truly wish i'd left him by the roadside as it messed up what ought to have been the best years of my life. My mother still hasn't gotten over it as i'm their only child, whereas my inlaws knew all along what their son could be like and my mother feels betrayed that they didn't tell us what the score was.

I truly wish you all the very best as i know what a tug of war this type of situation plays with the heart. Should i stay or should i go........
I am married to my husband for 6 years now. He is extremely anti social. We meet working as waiters, so we worked long hours and had little need for socialising after work. I did not see any apparent signs of anti-social behaviour. After we got married, we moved half way across the world, to live in his home town. So, I left my family and friends. I am not shy and gets on well with his family and friends. However, every attempt of mine to get friends or to socialise is short lived. He prefer to just stay at home or go out only with me and our two small kids. Even though his family members stays about a 5 minute drive from us, we only see them 2 to 3 times a year.

Since my children go to childcare and we are both am working full time, we have regular invitations to work functions and children's parties. He never wants to go to any event. He uses the kids as an excuse for not attending work functions. If he goes he will be grumpy. If I go alone with my kids, he will be grumpy and give some ridicilous ultimatum, e.g. be back in 30 minutes time.

Whenever my family members comes to visit (which entails flying for 13 hours and thousands of dollars), he cannot even be the least bothered to entertain them or to even sit down and have dinner with them. During a recent visit of my brother, my husband came home from work, went to the room and closed the door. And stayed there the whole evening, every evening.

When one of my local friends come to visit, he grabbed the vacuum cleaner and started vacuuming the house, even though I have done so before my friend came.

I am so lonely and sad. I have 2 small kids, but not a single person to turn to for help and support. It feels as if my husband is jealous and thinks that no one is worth his time and effort.
I know exactly how you feel. My husband is the same way and it can be pretty devastating at times. There is nothing more embarrassing than making excuses as to why your spouse isn't present for almost everything you do. Like you, I use to make excuses too but I'm finding myself staying home and not seeing my friends or family in order to avoid the embarrassing questions and judgmental looks. It has gotten so bad that there are people in my life who I am really close to who do not believe that I am married. I get the "oh sure your husband’s at home, you mean your imaginary husband?" Totally humiliating. If it were up to my husband he would spend every night watching tv and drinking beer, never saying a word to anyone. Please do not allow this to happen to you! Don't wait until you are married and can't do anything about it. Ask him to talk to someone whether it be a counselor or family member. He needs help and he also needs to understand that his behavior is not normal and life would be so much easier if he could get professional help, relax and cope socially. Do it now before your life turns into mine and your Boyfriend, now your husband refuses to do anything about it and you’re stuck accepting the situation as it is and settling on how things are instead of how they should be. Don't sacrifice your own happiness for someone else's refusal to make their life better. I know that sounds harsh but its the truth. I wish I would have known then what I know now. My life would be completely different.
I find it admirable that you want to help this man who you love wholeheartedly. However, HE is the only one who can help himself. You have gotten some great advice here, and have lots to think about. But I want you to think about one more thing that no one has mentioned.

You say he wants to have children someday. You need to think long and hard about the entire relationship, what your future may be like, and also what may happen to the lives of these children you would be bringing into the world. Does he really think that he can cope with children in his current condition? Not only the noise and stress of raising kids, but the soccer games? The slumber parties? The birthday parties? The friends coming over to visit? What message will he pass along to his children?

My ex-H had a milder form of SAD and I never felt comfortable letting the kids have their friends over, always felt I had to go down to the basement and tell them to keep the noise down, etc. And I felt so guilty for that, as all my life the only thing I wanted was to be a mother, to raise children. I am now out of that relationship and my kids are so much happier for it, but it was very hard on them during those years. (He wasn't their father, but it took a toll on them nonetheless.)

You have a huge choice to make in your life. I don't envy you that because I know how very hard it is for you. But you do need to think about things seriously. Love will not get you through all the trials and tribulations that you will face if he refuses to get treatment. You will be doomed to lots of arguments; loneliness; alienation from your family and friends; and a lifetime of trying to keep your children happy and emotionally healthy while covering for their father's issues.

Sit down and have a very serious talk with him about all of this, impress on him the severity of this, and then stick with whatever decision you make. Right now he's got it easy - he doesn't have to get help because you're sticking by him no matter what. Sure you argue, but you don't leave. He needs to have some incentive, some reason to help himself.





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