Quiet. Shy. Introverted. These are words we often use to describe those who prefer to take a backseat when it comes to social situations. But these words can also be a mask to hide an underlying psychological issue — social anxiety disorder (SAD).
Social anxiety disorder is more than just being nervous or uncomfortable in unfamiliar environments or when meeting new people. After all, everyone experiences this at one time or another. For those with this common mental disorder, it goes a step further.
How Social Anxiety Can Impact Romantic Relationships
SAD causes you to experience intense stress and even physical side effects like muscle tension or a rapid heartbeat in a variety of different social situations. Unfortunately, social anxiety can also have a toll on romantic relationships, but there is hope. With compassion and understanding, both those who struggle with SAD and their partner can cultivate a loving and lasting relationship.
Although everyone's social anxiety is different, here are some common ways that it can impact relationships:
- Difficulties trusting
- Less perceived support
- Viewing their partner as overly critical
- Attempting to control partner to reduce their own insecurities
- Demonstrating clinginess or jealousy
- Shutting down and refuses to talk about issues
- Holding back parts of themselves to avoid rejection
- Developing negative forms of communication like criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling.
- Pushing their partner away or sabotaging the relationship
For those in a romantic relationship with someone who has social anxiety, they often have a difficult time understanding where their partner is coming from. They may experience feelings of rejection or hurt because they don't understand why they're being pushed away.
However, if you keep the above warning signs in mind, you both can focus on creating an honest relationship. It will be based on the foundation of open communication as you discuss how the disorder has impacted you both.
Six Tips for Developing Healthy Relationships When You Have Social Anxiety
If you are addressing your social anxiety disorder and receiving treatment, then there's no reason why you can't create a healthy romantic relationship with the right person. Here are six tips that may help you foster a healthy relationship when you have social anxiety:
- Address Issues Immediately: When you have a concern you leave unsaid, negative feelings can develop — which could lead to harsh criticism and an unnecessary conflict. Even though it may be uncomfortable, it's important to be completely honest about your feelings and discuss issues, rather than just ignoring them.
- Discuss What's Important to You: If you've spent most of your life feeling like you were fading into the background, you may not be used to expressing how you feel. But knowing and understanding someone is the foundation of intimacy. Just start small with what you really think about something, like your food preferences or other lifestyle choices, and let it build from there.
- Learn to Embrace Your Own Uniqueness: There's a reason your partner is with you. Don't undermine this by devaluing yourself. Learn to see yourself as the worthwhile person you are, with your own personality and unique insights. When you love yourself, you are better able to recognize what you have to offer your relationship.
- Assume the Best About a Situation: It's never safe to assume what someone else is thinking or feeling, and that's especially true in relationships. Your anxiety may cause you to assume the absolute worst without provocation, but that's often unfair to your partner. When a negative assumption pops into your mind, confront it immediately and choose to replace it with a positive thought unitl you can get more information if needed.
- Keep Communication Open: There are many aspects of your social anxiety your partner will not understand unless you communicate them. You may have triggers that cause you to feel a certain way and that cause you stress. Explaining these to your partner will not only help them understand, but it will also give them the opportunity to help you.
- Focus on the Here and Now: Social anxiety can cause you to over-analyze the past and dread the future. Avoid this by focusing on what's happening right now. Enjoy and embrace your relationship as it is in the present.
It's Okay to Ask for Help
Proper treatment is key when you have social anxiety disorder. If you're looking for methods of preserving your relationships and if you're finding it difficult, that's okay. Mental health professionals can help you learn healthy approaches that will allow you to create a lasting relationship.
Brookhaven Retreat is here to offer a safe place where women who are dealing with mental health issues can find compassionate care and guidance. Admitting you need help may be what your relationship needs to stay on track. Reach out to us today to get more information.