Social Anxiety and Dating

Dating anxiety is a form of social anxiety that occurs when an individual’s fear of being negatively evaluated by their peers combined with low self esteem interferes with their romantic relationships. College aged students from 18-25 make up the majority of participants for studies on dating anxiety and online dating.

A poll taken from individuals with social anxiety ranking their concerns.
-Courtesy of Joyful Public Speaking

Individuals with dating anxiety have difficulty picking up social cues, distinguishing flirting from regular conversation, and reading body language. In additional to feeling anxious about how their peers judge them, someone with dating anxiety will feel they are being evaluated by the people they date or are in a relationship with. Factors such as race, class, outward appearance, and how “normal” they are compared to others makes it especially difficult to find a partner they feel is acceptable.

Recent studies have shown that social anxiety is a major indicator of dating aggression in adolescent men. Physical and verbal abuse in dating can reveal itself in relationships where the “fight” side of fight or flight in social anxiety comes out. Men with social anxiety often find that in relationships they feel negatively evaluated and demonized by their partner, which can result in violence.

College students are a vulnerable target for social and dating anxiety due to the rapid transition from living at home to moving into an entirely new environment and living on their own. Many students are daunted by the task of finding new friends on their own, and can develop social anxiety even if they had never had problems making friends before.

With the introduction of the internet, online dating and meeting people on the web has become highly popularized, especially in college students. With constant connections to social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, it has become easier for anxious students to meet new people.

Abby Boyle, a sophomore at the College of William and Mary and economics major, is a firm believer in using social media to meet people. She met her boyfriend through a mutual friend on Facebook. “He just started to chat me on Facebook randomly one day, I knew who he was from school, but we’d never talked in person,” said Boyle.  After meeting in person and having a successful date, they began their relationship. Boyle was convinced that Facebook could help her meet more new people at her school, and soon found an online social media website dedicated to William and Mary students.

A poll taken social media sites used most often
-Courtesy of

Today, nearly every university has a website, and many have groups, chat rooms, or some type of social media presence representing their current student body. UMW uses Facebook to unite students online, using the broad Groups at Mary Washington page, and using individual pages for each graduating class.  Karen Douthit, an Asian Studies major and junior at UMW with social anxiety said she joined a group on Facebook that was only open to UMW students graduating in the class of 2015. “I found study partners and people to buy books from before the school year even started,” said Douthit.

A transfer student from Northern Virginia Community College, Douthit joined the online group the summer of 2012 to try and meet students who could give her advice on what classes to take and where to find the cheapest textbooks. “I posted a question asking which teacher I should take for Chinese, and several people commented on it right away. I met them in person when school started and we made a study group,” said Douthit, who had been anxious about meeting new people at a new school.

Online dating has also helped many students meet new people. Online dating websites like eHarmony provide many filters and preferences to help the seeker find just the right person. Students with dating anxiety can feel more at ease using a simple search engine to find a compatible match.

Online chat rooms specifically for people with social anxiety are also popular for meeting others who understand exactly what they’re going through. Web sites like provide a safe way to meet people with the same feelings and anxieties.

A poll taken for online dating website preferences
-Courtesy of

Because dating anxiety is a form of social anxiety, it may be treated with medication. However, professionals in the area of dating anxiety often suggest that a positive attitude is the best cure. Many doctors in private practice, such as Dr. Jeremy Nicholson, a doctor of social and personal psychology, believe that the best cure for dating anxiety is to be curious and try as many dating experiences as possible. Dr. Nicholson runs a blog on his specialty field of dating and dating anxiety.

At UMW, Counseling and Psychological Services provide individual counseling for every type of mental illness, and have a wide variety of group therapy sessions.  There is no group therapy specifically for social anxiety as of yet, but individual one on one counseling with any of the staff at CAPS is available for students with social or dating anxiety.

By Aly Webb