How Social Anxiety Affects Dating Relationships

Socially anxious people tend to date less.
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Social anxiety can affect dating relationships in many different ways. Below are findings from related research on this topic.

ADAA Study

These survey results were part of a larger survey conducted by the Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA). The survey was conducted online between December 11th and 17th, 2007 by Harris Interactive, an online market research firm.

Study participants included 287 people with SAD.

Study participants were asked a variety of questions about the general impact of the disorder, impact on relationships (romantic, friendship and professional) as well as their treatment history. Results of the study were weighted to reflect the same demographics as the U.S. population.

A number of questions about romantic relationships were asked.

Negative Effects

In general, about three quarters of respondents felt that their romantic relationships had been negatively affected by SAD, and about one quarter felt the impact was major. Some of the negative effects included

  • disappointing partners by not going places or attending social activities
  • canceling dates at the last minute 
  • avoiding intimacy

Less than a quarter had kept their disorder a secret from their partner.

Healthy Relationships

On a positive note, more than three quarters of respondents with partners reported having healthy relationships and feelings that their partner was a great source of support.

About half reported relying on their partner to help them with daily tasks.


In terms of treatment, nearly two thirds of those receiving treatment felt that it had a positive impact on their relationship, and about one quarter believed that it had a major positive impact.

Dating Aggression 

In a study of adolescents, fear of negative evaluation (FNE), one aspect of social anxiety, was found to predict male dating aggression (physical aggression, such as slapping, use of a weapon, forced sex; and psychological aggression, such as slamming doors, insulting, or refusing to talk to a partner).

It is thought that in this case, the "fight or flight" response may reflect this aggressive tendency.

Online Dating 

In a study of computer and Internet use among young adults, differences were observed between high and low social/dating anxiety and media use/relationship formation.


Unfortunately, SAD can take a toll on your ability to establish and develop romantic relationships. For those that receive treatment and are able to find the right supportive partner, though, a healthy and fulfilling relationship is not at all out of the question.

While more research is needed, aggression may be related to social anxiety for some. In addition, online dating may be a viable alternative for those who find face-to-face communication daunting.


Anxiety Disorders Association. The effects of social anxiety disorder on personal relationships: Survey results. Accessed September 14th, 2008.

Hanby MS, Fales J, Nangle DW, Serwik AK, Hedrich UJ. Social anxiety as a predictor of dating aggression. J Interpers Violence. 2012;27(10):1867-88.

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