From Academic Kids

The term love-shyness is sometimes used to designate a specific type of severe chronic shyness. Love-shy people find it difficult to be assertive in informal situations involving potential romantic or sexual partners. For example, a love-shy heterosexual male will have trouble initiating conversations with women. The word love-shyness was probably coined by the psychologist Brian G. Gilmartin, who researched this phenomenon in heterosexual males.


Results of Gilmartin's research

According to Gilmartin, people of all ages, all sexual orientations, and both genders can be love-shy. However, in Gilmartin's opinion, love-shyness is especially a problem for heterosexual men. Because of gender roles in Western society, women and gay men can still succeed in intimate relationships if they do not take any initiative. Shy women are just as likely as non-shy women to date, to get married, and to have children. This is not the case for heterosexual men. Love-shy heterosexual men therefore normally fail to initiate any informal social contact with women. They cannot date, marry, have children, and many of these men never experience any form of intimate sexual contact with others.

Gilmartin notes that love-shy men are frequently assumed to be homosexual by other people, because of their perceived lack of interest in women. Additionally, he notes that many heterosexual love-shy men are not interested in friendships with other men. This, combined with their lack of success in initiating contact with women, causes feelings of loneliness, alienation, and sometimes depression.

Gilmartin estimates that love-shyness afflicts approximately 1.5 percent of most male populations. According to Gilmartin, love-shyness is, like most human psychological characteristics, the result of some combination of biological (genetic/developmental) and environmental (cultural, familial, religious, etc.) factors (see also: nature versus nurture).

Love-shyness and mental disorders

Love-shyness is not recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association. It does share some characteristics with commonly recognized mental disorders, however. Like people who are afflicted with an avoidant personality disorder, love-shy people feel uncomfortable in many informal social situations, and typically avoid opportunities for social contact. Their impairment of functioning in social interactions bears some similarities to the symptoms of Asperger's syndrome. For example, like people who have Asperger's syndrome, love-shy men often do not develop peer relationships. Like people who have a specific social phobia, love-shy people can be very anxious in informal social situations.

Arguably, love-shyness as described by Gilmartin is not a mental disorder. It can be seen as a pattern of failure in intimate relationships that is exhibited by socially inhibited men who may or may not have a mental disorder.


  • Brian G. Gilmartin (1987), Shyness & Love: Causes, Consequences, and Treatment (PDF (
  • Brian G. Gilmartin (1987), "Peer group antecedents of severe love-shyness in males." Journal of Personality, 55, 467-89 .

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