‘Love shyness’ is the term used to describe a specific type of chronic shyness in men. The term was coined in 1987 by the American professor Brian Gilmartin, but is still not officially recognised as a condition.
Men who claim to suffer all share the inability to initiate or engage in any form of romance involving women, rendering them terminally heartbroken and lonely. These men possess social skills and are able to hold down jobs and spend time with friends but they lack the confidence to approach women.
Gillian Butler, a clinical psychologist and the author of Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness, says: “There’s lots of advice for women about how to get over shyness, but shyness can be much harder for men to deal with because it’s seen as a feminine trait.”
Because Love-shy men can’t be officially diagnosed, no statistics on the subject exist. However, Love-shy.com has over 500 registered members. Gilmartan also did a study of over 300 men aged between 19 and 50 who conformed to the lovee-shy criteria, comparing them to 200 non-shy men aged 19-50 and concluded that it affected 1.7m males living in the US. He noted the presence of other social disorders in his subjects: dysthymia (a chronic, free-floating but shallow depression, and lack of energy and enthusiasm for life) and anxiety disorders. “Love-Shys enormously fear the experiencing of anxiety,” says Gilmartin. “They suffer from an overactive limbic system, which is the emotional brain.”
Mainstream drugs such as the antidepressant Paxil are being used as a treatment for shyness, but there are many side-effects including sweating, nausea, lowered libido and suicidal tendencies.
Robert Edelmann, professor of forensic and clinical psychology at the University of Roehampton, believes drugs are best taken in conjunction with cognitive behavioural therapy. “Otherwise you’re helping the symptoms but not addressing the problems of negative thinking patterns and avoidant behaviour.”