It is common to feel shy or anxious in social situations, but for some people, these feelings can be more intense and disruptive to their daily lives. It can be difficult to determine whether you are simply shy or if you have social anxiety disorder. Understanding the differences between the two can help you identify whether you may benefit from seeking support or treatment.
What is shyness?
Shyness is a normal emotion that most people experience at some point in their lives. It is a feeling of discomfort or nervousness that can occur when you are around new people or in unfamiliar social situations. Being shy can cause a person to feel self-conscious, worry about being judged by others, or have difficulty making small talk.
While shyness can be uncomfortable, it is usually not severe enough to disrupt your daily life or cause significant distress. Shyness is often a temporary response and people who are shy often tend to adapt and become more comfortable in social situations with time.
What is social anxiety disorder?
Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a fear of being judged or evaluated negatively by others in social situations. People with social anxiety disorder may feel excessively self-conscious and worry that they will do or say something embarrassing or foolish.
Unlike shyness, social anxiety disorder is more than just feeling uncomfortable in social situations. It is a persistent and excessive fear of social interactions – one that can significantly lower the quality of life. People with social anxiety disorder may avoid social situations altogether or endure them with great distress.
Symptoms of social anxiety disorder may include:
- Intense fear of being judged or evaluated by others
- Worrying excessively about social situations in advance
- Difficulty making small talk or starting conversations
- Difficulty making eye contact or feeling self-conscious about your appearance
- Avoiding social activities or events
- Physical symptoms such as sweating, racing heart, or difficulty speaking in social situations
- Experiencing extreme physical reactions like sweating, palpitations, shaking, rapid breathing, or panic attacks in social situations
Differences between shyness and social anxiety disorder
Shyness and social anxiety disorder can both involve feelings of discomfort or nervousness in social situations, but there are some key differences to consider:
- Severity: Shyness is generally less intense and less disruptive to daily life than social anxiety disorder. While shyness may be uncomfortable, it does not typically cause significant distress or interfere with daily activities. On the other hand, social anxiety disorder is a debilitating disorder and can significantly impair daily life.
- Duration: Shyness is often temporary, and most shy people will eventually ease into social situations given time. On the contrary, social anxiety disorder is a chronic mental illness that requires ongoing treatment and support.
- Need for treatment: Being shy is not an illness and does not significantly disrupt their daily lives, and most people don’t need any treatment. Social anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is a deep-rooted psychological disorder that requires professional treatment to keep the symptoms in check.
When to get help
If you regularly experience an intense, crippling fear of social situations, it may be helpful to seek support or treatment. A mental health professional can help you determine whether you have social anxiety disorder and recommend treatment options.
Treatment for social anxiety disorder may include therapy, medication – or a combination of both. Therapy can help you identify and change negative thinking patterns and behaviors that contribute to your social anxiety, while medications help reduce feelings of anxiety or take the “edge off.”
Looking for a ketamine study bay area? Although the distinction between shyness and social anxiety disorder can be subtle, it is important to understand the difference between the two and know when to seek professional help.
Remember, there is no shame in seeking help if your social anxiety is interfering with your daily life. With the right treatment, many people with social anxiety disorder can lead fulfilling lives.