Dear Dr. Frankie,
I am extremely shy around women that I’m attracted to; so shy in fact that I will go out of my way to avoid them. Any advice on what I can do to stop this crazy behavior?
Dear Social Phobia,
Social anxiety is quite common. I would start by testing the waters. Make a list of specific behaviors to display (ie: saying hello, making eye contact, etc) when engaging the cute girl. Rate your anxiety level on a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest). For example:
Smile and make eye contact (4)
Say Hi (5)
Ask them 1 question about them (6)
Ask what they do in their free time (7)
After making the list, test out one of the behaviors. Look at it as a behavioral experiment. The goal here is to slowly expose yourself to situations that make you anxious. Exposure will help desensitize you to the anxiety. Start with a lesser anxiety-provoking behavior, such as making eye contact. Then slowly work up the hierarchy of behaviors that make you anxious over time, to later reduce your anxiety as you expose yourself to the situation. Try to engage that cute girl until your anxiety begins to reduce. That way you’re teaching your brain that the situation was not as scary as you had previously perceived. If you leave the situation too prematurely, lets say when the anxiety is at 80% (not giving it time to reduce), then it teaches your brain it is something to still fear. 45 minutes exposure to an anxiety-provoking situation is usually the goal. If this doesn’t seem to help then I would recommend meeting with a therapist for addition techniques to help you cope with the anxiety in the moment. Now get out there and make some goo-goo eyes! Good Luck!