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Love-shyness is a chronic shyness in which a person becomes extremely anxious and unable to function normally when confronted with any type of interaction with the gender to which he or she is attracted. The anxiety is so severe that it inhibits normal social interaction, and some even go as far as to say that it is a type of social phobia. Love-shyness can happen to both genders and all sexualities, but is most predominant with heterosexual males. There are several factors that psychologists believe contribute to this shyness.
The term “love-shyness” was coined by Brian G. Gilmartin who was the first psychologist to study the phenomenon fully, and as of 2011, he is still the dominating expert on the subject. He describes love-shyness as the incapability for a man to interact with those of the opposite gender for any reason, while still being able to function normally in other aspects of his life. Gilmartin notes that although love-shyness can affect anyone, it is most predominant within heterosexual males. Psychologists believe this may be because of the assertive gender role that men are expected to undertake.
Men who suffer from love-shyness typically have similar backgrounds and personalities. According to Gilmartin’s research, love shy men are usually predisposed to shyness due to biological temperaments in combination with particular nurture and environmental learning experiences. They tend to have had close relationships with their nuclear family, but their relationships with peers were usually stressful and sometimes traumatic.
Most of these men have had at least one memorable experience with a female at a very young age. Some men remember a good experience with a girl, but the situation did not develop as fully as it could have. Usually, this experience happened in an embarrassing social setting. Almost all of these men have low self-esteem and emotional insecurity due to these experiences.
Gilmartin estimates that 1.5% of the male population in America suffers from love-shyness. He also believes the majority of this group will main recluse for the remainder of their lives. Other psychologists, however, believe that this estimation is overly generous. It is impossible to know how many people are love shy, mainly because it is not something regularly diagnosed by professionals, and most men are not likely to openly admit their shyness. In fact, many psychologists believe love-shyness should not have its own label outside of social anxiety, because it reinforces negative thinking in these men and infers that the condition cannot be managed or cured.