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Hi Amy,

I am seventeen years old, and I have been seriously involved with a nineteen year old for a year and a half. I love my partner completely, and could not have asked for a more wonderful guy. He is loving, supportive of me, and believes in gender equality. He has never hurt me physically or verbally, but the problem is that I hurt him. The abuse is mainly verbal - I yell at him, scream at him. I try so hard not to and the trying often alleviates the situation, but it is often beyond my control. I do it without realizing it. I don't feel that this abuse is an expression of anger towards him. It mostly arises in situations in which he tries to "help" me.

I suffer from social anxiety disorder, so consequently, I have great difficulties expressing my opinions, socializing, or having discussions. He encourages me to participate in social events, and when I feel uncomfortable in these, I often cry, withdraw, or panic. When he either tries to make me feel better in these situations or tries to encourage this socialization in the first place, the result a lot of the time is verbal abuse on my part. It is rarely an expression of anger, but usually one of either fear, embarrassment, or self-loathing. However, this has become something I'm really concerned about because the abuse has turned physical as well. I have thrown things at him, and I have hit him twice. The last time this happened (today), I apologized, and he said that it didn't mean anything to him because it will happen again.

I KNOW he's right, and that scares me. I do not come from an abusive family, and my parents have an egalitarian relationship. I don't know what's wrong with me. I know this site focuses on violence against women, but I feel that violence committed by women is just as much of a feminist issue. I feel extremely isolated because this issue is supposedly a "rare" one , and my isolation is compounded by my social anxiety. If you could please refer me to some books, web sites, or organizations that could possibly help me, I would greatly appreciate it.

Also, do you know if there is a correlation between abuse and social anxiety disorder? I do not want to lose him, nor do I want to continue hurting him. Thank you for responding.



Dear Hurting,

I don't think that women are any more benevolent than men, however, I think that we are more likely to suffer consequences -- either in the form of judgement by society or abuse -- for acting otherwise, therefore, we appear to be more kind. I am not a psychologist, and therefore, won't pretend that I have a diagnosis for you. However, I do encourage you to find that diagnosis. There is a directory of women's services at feminist.com, and they can help you find a doctor in your area.

Also, there are several resources for women and depression. It seems that you have a fear of letting people help you--you don't want to "need" others. However, we all need others and pretending we don't usually means our own self-destruction. Even though your parents and your boyfriend are supportive, maybe there was someone else in your childhood that is at the root of these feelings, this repression. I don't know, but I think that your asking the questions is the first step toward trying to remedy the situation and I'm glad that your boyfriend will work through it with you. I hope you get the diagnosis that you are looking for and that you need.

Good luck,

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