DearDoc: Coping with the Panic of Relationships

Welcome back Tigers! With Valentine’s Day rapidly approaching, you may be thinking about that cute guy from your economics class or that beautiful girl from Biology. Whatever the case may be, approaching someone you are interested in can be nerve-wracking. Even more so if you suffer from social anxiety.

Social anxiety is more than an inconvenience. While at times social anxiety can cause serious discomfort and stress, it may spiral into deeper feelings such as panic attacks or low self-esteem.

I was recently asked by someone close to me, “How am I supposed to meet someone when I’m too scared to start a conversation?” Following this loaded question, I began to think about how difficult it is to put yourself out there, especially when anxiety rears its ugly head.

With the thought of helping my fellow Tiger, I’ve compiled five tips for love and dating with social anxiety.

  1. Exercise

Even though I’d much rather be curled up in bed, listening to Wu-Tang or finishing the last season of Breaking Bad, exercise has tremendous benefits and should be incorporated into your weekly regimen. Exercise releases endorphins, which in turn will improve your mood. For someone who is often sedentary, walking for 20-30 minutes, as often as possible, is a good way to start. Being able to approach that handsome fella in anthropology will become easier when you physically feel better about yourself.


  1. Avoid Cliché Meeting Places

Many people stricken with social phobia still try to meet people at bars, clubs and parties. Especially in severe cases, these types of events may only further worsen your anxiety. Having to manage the fear of striking up conversation while Bobby Shmurda blares from a speaker three inches from your face will only provide excess stress that will be harder to mentally overcome.


Find smaller groups. Join a club on campus. Something you’re interested in. This will give you the incentive to join while also meeting new people. You may find a new love interest or new friends. Either one will help you further overcome your anxiety.


  1. Decide whether Online Dating is for You

Online dating takes the panic out of having to approach strangers. Dating sites are an opportunity to put together a carefully crafted description of yourself, highlighting your positive attributes while attracting someone of the same nature. Even so, connecting with people virtually may only worsen your social anxiety. Depending on the person, dating sites may create an artificial comfort zone, making face-to-face contact even more intimidating. If you choose to use any of these sites, use your discretion and decide whether virtual dating is a positive choice for you.


  1. Persevere through Panic

There are many levels accompanying social anxiety. Some of which include panic attacks. If your social phobia is intense to the point of hyperventilation, you may want to try breathing exercises. Personally, breathing in through my nose for five seconds, holding that breath for 3, then exhaling through my mouth for five-seven seconds, gives me the ability to regain my composure. If you are ever in the position where you are having an attack during a social event, step outside for a moment and breathe. Your first instinct may be to leave entirely. This will only worsen your social phobia. You will be reinforcing the idea that being social gives you anxiety. Take a minute, breathe and continue your social event. You’ll feel better about your ability to persevere.


  1. Stay Occupied After a Date

If you have social anxiety, your mind is your worst enemy. After a date, you are most likely racking your brain to figure out what you could have improved on. Did he or she seem interested? Did he or she find me attractive? Did he or she find it strange that I named my body pillow? While it is healthy to think about your date, overanalyzing will only spiral into negative thoughts. Try to stay as busy as possible over the next few days in order to reflect anxiety driven feelings.


DearDoc is a judgmental-free space. All questions and replies will remain anonymous. I am open to taking questions of all kinds, shapes and sizes. Please e-mail me at [email protected]


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