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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You were far too hard on the boyfriend of "Frustrated in Texas," who avoided social events and wanted to elope with her instead of having a big wedding. You seemed to hold him responsible for his anxiety, as if he were doing it on purpose.

From his description, he sounds like someone who suffers from social phobia. This is a very treatable psychiatric illness that can incapacitate people. As with panic disorder, it responds well to both medication and behavioral modification.

I have treated many patients who felt their lives were changed by the simple addition of a medication that controlled their panic in social situations. Please urge this man to see his doctor so he and his fiancee can have the large wedding of her dreams. -- GEORGE L. CHAPPELL, M.D., PROVIDENCE/ST. PETER HOSPITAL, OLYMPIA, WASH.

DEAR DR. CHAPPELL: Thank you for your informative letter. While many people suffer from varying degrees of social insecurity, this is the first time I have heard it classified as a psychiatric disorder that can be treated with medication. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I am one of your male readers. Six months before my wedding, I became increasingly concerned that my social anxiety disorder would wreak havoc on the event for myself, my fiancee and 250 of our friends and family.

Ever since I was 6, I've had difficulty speaking in public, particularly when I'm the center of attention. The thought of saying "I do" in front of so many people turned my stomach. Determined to do something about it, I signed up for a 10-week course of group therapy for sufferers of social anxiety disorder.

As my wedding day approached, I was calm, cool and relaxed. When the clergywoman asked if I would take my fiancee to be my lawfully wedded wife, with confidence I responded, "I do!" -- HAPPILY MARRIED IN MINNEAPOLIS

DEAR HAPPILY MARRIED: I'm pleased that group therapy was helpful to you. You were wise to see the need and do something about it.

DEAR ABBY: I am an introverted, quiet man married to a vivacious, gregarious woman for more than 27 years. We have found that our opposite temperaments complement each other and help each of us to develop characteristics we previously lacked. My wife brought me out of my shell and helped me to appreciate the value of a social life.

I'm sure "Frustrated" and her fiance could compromise about their wedding plans if they see their disagreement as a problem to solve rather than a battle to win. If they are not capable of compromise, they are not mature enough to be married. -- ENCHANTED WITH LIFE IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR ENCHANTED: You're right. Compromise is an important ingredient in every successful relationship.

DEAR ABBY: How do I write thank-you notes for gifts I dislike? No matter how I word it, I end up feeling dishonest and insincere. -- BLOCKED WRITER IN SANTA MONICA

DEAR BLOCKED: It is not dishonest or insincere to thank people for their generosity, or the time and trouble they spend finding a gift for you. If you keep that in mind next time you're faced with the task of writing a thank-you note, I'm sure the words will come more easily.

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