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I’m not sure how to approach this topic with my husband or how to help him deal with it, or even where to start. I believe my husband suffers from severe social anxiety. In the last four years it’s become more apparent and pronounced. I’m seeking advice on how to approach the subject with him and possibly ask him to see a psychiatrist.

Around old high school buddies, he is fine and has no issues socializing. During our four years of undergrad, he didn't make a single friend beyond a casual acquaintance. Since starting professional school together last July, he hasn't made a friend besides tagging along with friends of mine. At school, he doesn't talk to anyone besides me. He doesn't reach out to others and does not reciprocate when others try to befriend him. The most upsetting and frustrating part is I know that he wants to make friends, but he is so uncomfortable that he can’t.

He has no self-confidence, but has absolutely no reason to be lacking. He dresses confident, is intelligent and very attractive, loves sports. I want others to get to know him because I know they would love him just as much as I do.

I’m afraid that he’s going to go through these next four years not growing as a person, not advancing as a professional about to enter a field with an emphasis on social interaction, and not enjoying himself, if I don’t take some action.

Any advice is so greatly appreciated. Thanks to all.
 

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Hi Lolabell, love that name!

Well it does sound like anxiety of some sort.

Anxeity is best treated multimodal. Both meds and talk therapy. The anxiety, which many times is a chemical imbalance, causes the behavior to change sometimes drastically. As the behavior changes to avoid anxious situations, the anxiety is actually reinforced. So Everytime he successfully avoid something that causes anxiety, he is strengthening the anxiety. This will cause the anxiety to get worse and be experienced under related conditions, thus making his anxiety appear to be spreading out.

Medication can help alleviate the acuteness of anxiety thus making the client more "available" to learn healthier coping skills to LESSEN the anxiety and anxious reactions. Read that sentence over and over because that is key!

Talk therapy is essential, along with medication, in order to overcome the anxiety by slowly incorporating new behavior coping skills that work to effectively get rid of anxiety altogether!

So, he needs to consult a therapist, who will then refer to a psychiatrist for medication. Over the course of treatment, he will see psychiatrist once per 4-6 weeks for med management. He will continue his weekly therapy sessions.

The good news!!! Anxiety is one of the easiest mental health issues to deal with and total alleviation of anxiety is a realistic goal.

How to bring it up...

"My love, I don't like the way you shut yourself off from people and refrain from forming friendships. I suspect this might be an anxiety condition. I learned, from talking with this brilliant woman over the Internet (joking ...because one should never blanket accept info from public forums and always do their own research) that anxiety is something that grows worse if not properly treated AND that treating anxiety is generally very successful. I want you to not have anxiety and be freely able to share yourself with others. You are so wonderful it hurts me to see you cutting yourself off and denying others the chance to get to know you! So... I made some calls and have a list of therapist who will be able to begin the steps necessary to get rid of this anxiety so you can fully and freely enjoy life! I want you to make an appointment and see what they have to say."

I don't like....
I suspect....
I want you to... I need you to....
I want you to make an appointment.....

Those are all action statements, not judgement statement. Those are all centered on "I" statements not "You" statements.

Dont be afraid of his reaction. Although men do tend to be resistant to seeking help. I have found that when the help is proposed in the above way, men tend to respond better.

Let me know how it goes?
 

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As a male with varying social anxieties, I would want my spouse to find out what I want out of the next 4 years by asking instead of worrying or being afraid that I might not grow as a person. I'm a big fan of I statements like the post above by Anon Pink. Find a way to ask with genuine interest.

Are you newly married?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Anon Pink - thank you so much for the advice. I will let you know how it goes!

J4A6 - we have been married a year now but lived together the past 4 years and dated a total of 8. What I am afraid is that he is going to say that it doesn't bother him that he isn't making friends. I think deep down it does, because we have talked about before and he had brought up the fact that he didn't make any friends in undergrad. He has told me before that he doesn't know how to approach people or carry on small conversation. And that he's in awe of how I can meet anyone comfortably.
 

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Why is this your problem? Did you marry him to be some fix it project? Did he ask for your help?

If he wants friends, wants to better his career, wants to fix this he will otherwise he won't.

Men rarely change based on their wives suggestions no matter how well intentioned you are. All he will hear when you bring this up is that he's flawed in your eyes. The woman who supposedly loved him enough to commit herself to him now wants to change him? Really?

Look I've been there and it didn't work so I'm trying to save you from the same mistakes I made. I've been married for 21 years.
 

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lolabell, will you share your birth order as well as your husband? Are there brothers and sisters?

i.e. I'm the youngest with 1 older sister. My wife is the oldest out of 3 sisters.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
J4A6 - I am the oldest of 3 siblings. I have 2 younger brothers. He is the 3rd of 4 children. He has 2 older brothers and 1 younger sister. Does birth order have an impact on these sorts of issues?

Mavash - I appreciate your thoughts and understand where you are coming from. No I did not marry him to fix him. It is not my problem. But I do believe that it is an issue that has grown worse over the years and I believe that he will be happier and more comfortable with himself if we took some time to talk about it. I'm not going to force him to change into something he's not.

I think you are wrong in saying "If he wants friends, wants to better his career, wants to fix this he will otherwise he won't." Some people don't know where to start and need others to help them get to where they want to be and need support along the way. If he doesn't think it's an issue and doesn't want to do anything to change, I will support him and love him as I have the last 8 years.
 

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Birth order definitely can shape how a person develops. I think a good thing is you both grew up in families with siblings of both sexes. This is just a starting point to look into how you and your husband developed yourselves in your family of origin. You can even go back and ask the same birth order questions of your parents. Multigenerational views can help understand forces that shaped you. I have spent time thinking about how being a youngest child, raised by a youngest mother shaped me. Then asking my mother what it was like to be raised by a mother who was an only child. Interesting stuff to me. It helped me learn about myself and how I am defined.

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Often people with low self esteem spend their whole lives fighting against it. And sometimes this is not such a bad thing because some work very hard and become very successful in order to prove to themselves and others that they are worthwhile. Of course no amount of success and money will do that but a lack of self esteem can be a great motivator.

He doesn't have a lot of friends because being around people and forming friendships turn on his low self esteem alarm bells. He will be hyper vigilant for any signs of rejection or criticism on the part of those close to him. He may even see rejection or criticism where they really isn't any. The bottom line is that intimate relationships are experienced as stressful and it is much easier to not put ones self thru that. he is probably quite content just to have one or two people that he might consider "friends"

You didn't mention it but low self esteem and the intimacy anxiety that often accompanies it can also effect his sex life and an intimate sexual relationship can also be perceived as stressful and in some men this stress causes anxiety which in turn shuts him down sexually and causes dysfunction that if severe, will cause him to stop having sex because the intimacy is too hard to handle and the shame of not being able to perform sexually grinds down his self esteem even more than it already was. Sex, like friendships become something to be avoided.
 

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I think it comes down to, is he happy with who he is? It would be dangerous to assume that he wants to change or to assume that you know better what's best for him. If he tells you that there are things he would like to change about himself then you're obviously ready to help him, and if he tells you that he's happy you should take him at his word. Because even if he felt differently deep down, it would mean that he's not ready to seek help.
 
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