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For people who don’t have social anxiety or shyness, it may seem that there’s no difference between the two, but in reality, they are both very different things.
People with social anxiety and people with shyness both have different ways of feeling their symptoms.
As well as curiosity, there’s an excellent reason why it’s important to know the difference between shyness and social anxiety. The reason why it’s important to understand the difference is to do with what treatment that may be offered to the person suffering from the condition.
Generally speaking, a person with shyness doesn’t need any treatment at all. But the person suffering from social anxiety may require treatment or at least some support.
What Is Shyness?
Being shy is probably best described as feeling self-conscious and having low self-esteem in social situations. A person who is shy will have many internal dialogues concerning what they’ll say to people they meet, and how they will appear to other people.
A shy person often feels very self-conscious, and this often leads to them looking awkward or feeling like they’re awkward, in any social situation. Shy people don’t tend to avoid social situations, but they merely feel uncomfortable about attending social situations or meeting new people.
What is Social Anxiety?
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A person suffering from social anxiety disorder tends to have symptoms associated with their disorder. The symptoms that they experience are very similar to the symptoms that you may know about already regarding panic attacks (anxiety attacks). The symptoms include feeling nauseous, having a rapid heartbeat and also feeling that they need to escape the situation.
People who suffer from social anxiety tend to avoid social situations altogether, and they also tend to suffer from anticipatory anxiety regarding future social situations.
Can Shyness Develop Into Social Anxiety Disorder?
More teenagers suffer from shyness than adults. This fact suggests that most people with shyness grow out of it as they grow older.
For teenagers, there is a significant pressure amongst their friends to perform to specific standards, and this creates rules and regulations for how they should behave. This structure creates a kind of unwritten rulebook and having such rules places pressure on teens to perform at their peak at all times.
With such rules existing, it is very easy to break the rules or not follow the rules and to be easily branded an outcast. It is not surprising, therefore, that many teenagers feel an enormous pressure to fit in socially.
Most teenagers will manage to fit in, so if they were shy already then this acceptance will help eliminate their shyness.
Social anxiety disorder tends to develop later than during the teenage years. This observation would suggest that shyness doesn’t generally develop into a social anxiety disorder.
It can happen, however, that people who did have shyness when they were younger can develop a social anxiety disorder at a later stage in their lives. This might suggest that the person managed to merely hide (suppress) their shyness when they were younger, and now at an older age, their subconscious mind is developing that hidden shyness into social anxiety.
Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder
One highly successful form of therapy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy encourages the patient to scrutinize their behaviors and actions, and then adapt those behaviors and activities to help develop more rewarding sets of behaviors.
Doctors may prescribe certain medications to people suffering from social anxiety disorder. Medication may help with the primary symptoms, but it doesn’t eradicate the problem. This kind of treatment is rather like having a hole in your wall and merely hanging a painting over it to hide the problem. Hiding a problem perhaps makes it look better, but it doesn’t cure the underlying issue.
Medication can be useful but only if used in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is CBT that can change the behaviors of the sufferer, and these changes need to be individualized for each patient.
The Last Word
I will conclude this post by underlining the fact that shyness and social anxiety disorder are not the same things.
People who are shy can often function perfectly well in everyday situations. They may feel slightly awkward, they may feel somewhat uncomfortable, but they can still perform day-to-day activities perfectly well.
For people who suffer from social anxiety, a social situation isn’t just an inconvenience; it’s a major battle. Many social situations will be avoided entirely, rather than enduring the pain of facing up to them.
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