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Tuesday, December 29, 2020

 What is the difference between Social Anxiety and Shyness?



Since the discovery of Social anxiety in 1980, unfortunately, it is often dismissed as just extreme shyness. There has been a lot of confusion as to differentiate between social anxiety and shyness. Some people question the premise that social anxiety is the same construct as shyness.

If you are also confused in differentiating both conditions then this article is for you. Here, I will discuss the differences between social anxiety and shyness and how can anyone figure out whether someone is suffering from a social anxiety disorder or it’s just a personal trait. Let’s figure it out!

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder is also known as ‘Social Phobia’ that causes extreme distress which leads to avoiding social situations. People having social anxiety hesitate while talking to people and attending social gatherings. They have a fear of being judged and scrutinized by others. However, social anxiety is different from shyness. Both can’t be mixed with each other.

Social anxiety is persistent and debilitating. It can affect someone’s life in different ways.

Situations that are usually feared by people having social anxiety are:

Attending a social party or gathering

Talking in front of others

Talking to strangers

Asking a question

Job interviews

Shopping

Waiting in a cue

Talking on phone

What is Shyness?

Shyness is a personal trait, not a disorder. Shy people feel uncomfortable when they walk into a room full of unknown people and they might be not interested in talking about their lives and expressing their feelings to others. One of the advantages shy people have over the person with social anxiety is that their discomfort in all these situations is short-lived. However, shyness is manageable.

On the other hand, social anxiety causes a high level of distress that leads to several social situations.

Research published in the Journal of Current Psychiatry shows the difference between social anxiety and shyness and sums up the findings as:

Social anxiety and Shyness are not the same but two different things.

Shyness is a personality trait.

Many shy people do not face any negative emotions and feelings that are common symptoms of social anxiety.

Lastly, people with social anxiety are usually shy as well while shyness is not a pre-requisite for social anxiety disorder.

All people with social anxiety are not shy

It is not true that all people with social anxiety are also shy. I personally know many people having social anxieties and they hold them back from doing what they wanted to do in their lives. But when they overcome social anxiety, they enjoy being the center of attention and talking to strangers.

Social anxiety and shyness have similarities but there are distinct differences between both situations. Shyness is a personal characteristic with a combination of anxiety and inhibition in interpersonal situations. It is a normal trait of personality combined with inhibited behavior. Whereas, on the other hand, social anxiety is a significant amount of fear that causes a high level of distress and the affected person avoids every type of engagement with the people. This causes avoidance even those activities in which people want to engage.

Only about one-half of the people with social anxiety are shy, according to research. And less than 25% of people are shy without having fear of anxiety or high distress level.

People having social anxiety experience fear, stress, feeling of embarrassment, and humiliation every day.

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