I just realized today I have a serious fear of men. Any man whom I could potentially be involved with. I am 21 years old. Ever since I was small, I was told not to talk to them. My family was strict about this. Even now, I don’t tell my father if there are going to boys at a school event like a friend’s or club dinners (I have never went to a party so that’s not an issue). My younger sister has no problem talking to boys (she’s pretty…that might be a factor). I can talk to guys in a professional setting but I have never had a casual conversation related to anything outside of school work. I can’t even make eye contact…its really bad. People will say, they’re just humans…but I can’t act normal around them.

In kindergarten, there was a boy. We used to tease each other a lot (I remember it was actually fun). Once he was teasing me so I complained to my parents. I don’t remember exactly what happened but they told the teacher. In class, when he was coming to play in the same area I was in and I got really scared. The teacher told me to “grow up”.

In grade 8, a boy told me I was sexist. I didn’t think I was at the time, but looking back, I realized I was. I was never friends with the boys in middle school…we just talked and they mostly teased me.

In high school and university, I was (and am) completely segregated from boys. I neither talked to them unless I had to, never mind being friends. At least in middle school I talked to them and had fun conversations…I miss the company of guys. Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to work, I can talk no problem. But social situations are a whole different ball game.

I’m so afraid I’ll never get over this fear. My parents will probably want me to graduate and then get married. I’m 99% sure my dad would still get mad if I had any guy friends. My mom tells me: their okay to have guy friends you know…when I’m now 21. Thanks. I could have used that years ago. They just expect me to get married to a guy after 20 something years of not being comfortable with them?

Background: I am very shy (even with girls but at least I can have casual conversations with them. I am not pretty (maybe this affects my self-esteem? I am objectively NOT attractive…boys, my brother, my old friends, even my family, says it, some being mean, others not realizing it). I am Indian and I think my parents expect me to get an arranged marriage (this won’t happen to my sister and brother as they are perfectly functional and can find their own partner). I just want to be able to talk to the other 50% of the population.

A: Since you are still in school I would encourage you to join a therapy group at the university. Group therapy is an excellent way to confront these fears in a supportive environment. The best way to cope with this is to expose yourself to a group with men in it. This will allow you to voice your concerns in the presence of a trained facilitator. I would encourage you to check this option out sooner rather than later.

Wishing you patience and peace,
Dr. Dan
Proof Positive Blog @ PsychCentral