What Is Social Anxiety and Why Is It Different From Being Shy?
Even the most extroverted people in the world have moments of shyness. It’s normal, it’s inevitable, and it’s nothing to be concerned about. Being in a new situation, around new people, can lead anyone to feel a little standoffish until they settle in. This is not the same as having social anxiety.
Social anxiety is a diagnosable mental health issue that can seriously interfere with your daily functioning. At a brief glance, yes, one cannot always differentiate it from shyness. Some of the symptoms are very similar. However, social anxiety is chronic and far more impactful. Knowing the difference is very important when it comes to getting the help you need.
Shyness vs. Social Anxiety: The Basics
Shyness, by definition, is not a negative attribute. It can be situational and often, individuals grow out of it as they move into adulthood. For some people, it is a personality trait that rarely factors into how they live their life. Its telltale physical signs are also the telltale physical signs of social anxiety, e.g.
- Rapid heart rate
With social anxiety, however, you can add detachment and numbness, panic attacks, migraines, and chest tightness. Social anxiety may also be situational but it is always a negative attribute. How negative it becomes varies from person to person. Usually, it manifests in a cluster of symptoms.
Comparing Behaviors and Perspectives
- A shy person tends to be quieter than others and may sometimes avoid eye contact
- People with social anxiety feel authentic dread over the possibility of embarrassing themselves in front of others
- Shy folks will avoid a situation if they think it will make them feel uncomfortable
- Someone dealing with social anxiety views such situations as places where they will be judged and their anxiety will be noticed by everyone
- Someone who is shy might get frustrated by their shyness at times but, in general, they work around it without altering their day-to-day life
- Social anxiety can drive people to expect humiliation and obsess over every single social interaction they have
- Shy persons may keep to themselves and sort of blend into the background
- Those with social anxiety can be more obvious due to their relentless attempts to not be obvious
Possible Risk Factors For Social Anxiety
Shyness, on rare occasions, can lead to social anxiety. But here are the more common risk factors:
- Being neglected, abandoned, or abused as a child
- Having anxious parents
- Having an immediate family member with social anxiety
- Low self-esteem
- A personal history of anxiety and/or trauma
- Problems maintaining friendships or relationships
- Being bullied or teased
Shyness vs. Social Anxiety: Summary
Shyness is a personality trait or quirk. Social anxiety is a disorder. In almost every instance, someone with shyness is able to function and thrive — but in their own way. Social anxiety, like any form of anxiety disorder, impedes many of life’s basic activities. The tendency of people with social anxiety is to isolate and avoid but this will only exacerbate the issue. Someone with social anxiety should reach out to get some guidance.
Getting Help For Social Anxiety
For starters, you can cultivate some self-help practices, e.g. regular sleep patterns, healthy eating choices, meditation, daily exercise, journaling, and leaning on your support system. That said, working with a therapist is the proven path toward results and recovery. Your weekly sessions are the ideal setting to explore behaviors and their underlying causes.
Like all anxiety disorders, the idea is to challenge negative thought patterns. From there, you’re well-positioned to identify patterns and try out new approaches. If you’d like to get started on this path, I’m here to help you through anxiety therapy let’s connect soon.