It’s normal to feel some nervousness in certain situations, such as before a job interview or going on a date. Some people are naturally shy and take a bit to open up to others, so these situations may cause more discomfort for those who are shy than for those who are not. Others have social anxiety, which can make even everyday interactions cause serious anxiety. Many people use shyness and social anxiety as interchangeable terms, however, they are not the same thing. While there are some similarities between the two, there are quite a key differences between shyness and social anxiety.
Shyness is a personality trait, like introversion, that generally doesn’t raise cause for concern. Social anxiety, on the other hand, is an anxiety disorder that can seriously impact one’s life and cause them to avoid even activities they enjoy and want to do.
The fact that many people don’t realize there are differences between shyness and social anxiety leads to social anxiety getting brushed off and people not getting the help that they need. Here’s what you need to know about some of the key differences between shyness and social anxiety.
Shyness Vs Social Anxiety
While the two share some characteristics, there are quite a few differences between shyness and social anxiety. The two have such similarities that some think social anxiety is just extreme shyness, while others may be confused about whether or not they are merely shy or whether they have social anxiety. To better understand the differences between shyness and social anxiety, let’s dive into what both of these are, so you can see what is normal behavior and what is a symptom of a social anxiety disorder.
What Is Shyness?
As previously mentioned, shyness is a personality trait. Shyness often includes passiveness and uncertainty, typically in new situations or around people that you are either unfamiliar with or uncomfortable around. Some people grow out of shyness, some develop it, and others find that it lets up the more comfortable they get in a situation or around someone.
People who are shy often:
- Are passive and quiet around others
- Avoid uncomfortable social situations
- Avoid eye contact
- Are hesitant to try new things
- Feel like they don’t belong
- Excessively rehearse what they want to say/how they want to behave
- Wish to be perfect in their social interactions
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety experience extreme, debilitating anxiety about how they are perceived and act in social settings or in social interactions. Contrary to what many people believe, social anxiety is not solely experienced by those who are introverted and/or shy, but also by extroverts and people who are popular and seem to enjoy being the center of attention.
People with social anxiety often struggle with concern over how other people view their social interactions and deep inadequacy. They often realize when their anxiety is irrational, which can lead to worsened symptoms from their frustration with themselves.
People with social anxiety commonly experience symptoms such as:
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty speaking
- Muscle tension
- Rigid posture
- “Blanking out” and forgetting what you were going to say or do
- Feeling as though you are out of your body
- Panic attacks
- Headaches or migraines
The Main Differences Between Shyness And Social Anxiety
Depending on how they present, shyness and social anxiety can look similar, and also change, depending on the person’s mental health and age. Shyness typically goes away after a person adjusts to being in a situation or begins to feel comfortable around a new person. Social anxiety, on the other hand, is present before, during, and after situations. Shyness is typically situational, and while social anxiety can be too, shyness can go away while social anxiety can persist long after the person is no longer in a situation or around a person.
Someone who is shy will typically try to blend into the background, avoid people or interactions, or become quiet around others when they are loud and bubbly around their loved ones.
Someone with social anxiety will typically experience some doubt and uncertainty, such as seeking constant validation, display social awkwardness, and experience physical symptoms, such as having a panic attack.
While shyness can turn into social anxiety if someone feels anxious about the fact that they are shy and then start to try to avoid or worry about social interactions, shyness in and of itself isn’t an anxiety disorder. Many shy people open up once they feel comfortable and don’t mind social situations, even though they may be reserved and stick to the people that they know.
Social anxiety can worsen with time, as the fear and anxiety symptoms increase. Why shy people may avoid social interactions sometimes, people who have social anxiety can fear them, worry about them for months prior to the event, feel like they are going to be sick throughout the entire event, and then overanalyze how they behaved during the event long after it’s passed. Usually, people who have social anxiety realize their fear is overblown, but they don’t know how to control it.
One of the major differences between shyness and social anxiety is the intensity to which it impacts your life. Shy people may feel awkward around people they don’t know or in new situations, but typically, that doesn’t prevent them from living their lives. People with social anxiety can go to extremes to avoid people and social interactions, and the social anxiety can seriously impact their life, such as keeping them from doing everyday activities, like going to the grocery store.
Are You Struggling With Social Anxiety?
As you see, shyness and social anxiety are not the same. Social anxiety is a psychological disorder that causes serious distress to people’s lives. Luckily, there are treatment options available to help with social anxiety, such as medication and therapy. Ogden Psychological Services is here to help you. If you’re struggling with social anxiety, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our goal is to help you live your life to its fullest capacity. We can help you manage and work through your social anxiety. Contact us to set up a psychological evaluation or an appointment.