Sexual Confusion or Social Anxiety?

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Reader’s Question

I am a 21-year-old male, and I have been going through a strange phase in my life in the recent year. I have always considered myself straight, mainly because whenever I have sexual fantasies it involves women, and whenever an attractive woman passes my sight I can’t help but follow with my gaze. I have occasionally caught myself looking at men, but not in a sexual manner, mainly just comparing their appearance to mine.

I have had three girlfriends in my life and have slept with 10 different women. (Around where I live and amongst my friends, this is a low number.) The reason I am confused about my sexuality is because I can’t help but feel afraid of women: I’m afraid they will find me boring, ordinary, etc. I realize that I shouldn’t be afraid, but when I’m talking with an attractive girl, I don’t flirt, and the conversations are usually dry and short. I just can’t help it; my mind just freezes up. On top of that I am also paranoid that my friends think I’m in the closet and talk about it behind my back, which puts more pressure on me to try and prove them wrong, but this just makes me even more nervous around women.

Overall, I am very nervous when put in public situations. I don’t know if I’m in denial about my sexuality or if I just suffer from social anxiety.

Psychologist’s Reply

This sounds like social anxiety more than sexual confusion. It’s interesting that your sexual experimentation has not helped to put your mind at ease. Be that as it may, I encourage you to find someone — outside of your circle of friends — to talk to about your problems. It seems like they are very busy promoting their own agenda and may not have time for yours. At least, you perceive them this way, which makes you unavailable to them in relation to this issue.

Social anxiety can be crushingly debilitating. It sounds like you are troubled by this, but it is not disabling at this time. Take advantage of this chance for early intervention and start work on it right away, before habits and self-doubts become entrenched. An active, participating and empathetic therapist can help you a long way toward overcoming your anxiety.

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