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Picture someone so afraid of social interaction he can’t hold a job or make friends. That’s where 32-year-old dating coach Chris Luna comes in.
Luna looks less like a dating coach than like a movie star playing the role of a dating coach.
He never intended to get so involved with the socially anxious, but when he started coaching in New York City (he had moved from California to attend Columbia University, realized his scholarship wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and needed extra cash), those were the clients who found him.
“They were the ones no one else wanted to work with,” he says.
He chooses two people to stand in the middle of the circle and tells them to keep both hands on each other at all times. But whereas two hours ago people weren’t laughing at all, or they were covering their mouths and lowering their heads, now everyone howls as the people in the middle of the circle find creative ways to make contact.
After a few more stories like that one (“I’m having a total panic attack right now!
” one man says when it’s his turn), Luna offers some tips: Focus on something specific. If you’re talking about a car, give us its make and color. Rebecca tells us that, against her family’s wishes, she wants to get a Triforce tattooed on her wrist.
Most of them learned about the workshop through the New York Shyness and Social Anxiety Meetup; with more than 2,500 members, it’s the largest social anxiety meet up in the world, according to the group’s leader, Erik Silverman.
SAD first appeared in the Still, the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug company Glaxo Smith Kline to market Paxil as the antidote (“Imagine being allergic to people,” the ad says), and soon, both Paxil prescriptions and SAD diagnoses were on the rise.And it’s inaccurate to say, as some have since Paxil became popular, that SAD is nothing but a marketing construct. And classes like this one, or at least communities like this one, offer some relief.Those who seek out social anxiety groups (not to mention those too anxious to do so), whether or not they have a disorder, suffer in a singular way. The students in this room seem grateful, even happy to learn new coping skills and to be part of a supportive group.“When I get nervous,” says a young woman named Rebecca, “I shut down.