How To Recognise The Difference Between Shyness And Social Anxiety

Is being shy and having social anxiety or social phobia the same thing? Many people if asked will believe that if a person is shy then he or she suffers from social anxiety. The two conditions are related and if a person is shy then it is possible that they can develop social anxiety,  but they start out as two different and separate disorders. Actually shyness is more of a mannerism than a disorder whilst if a person is diagnosed with social anxiety then they are definitely suffering with a mental health disorder.

The main difference between being shy and having social anxiety is the extent to which day to day life is affected.

A person may have a tendency to be shy and this is actually a feature of his or her personality, it may mean that they are a little uncomfortable amongst strangers or when meeting new people at a social occasion for instance. However when they are with friends or family they are quite comfortable and able to deal with the situation without too much uneasiness or embarrassment. The majority of shy men or women are able to live normal lives without feeling the need to avoid certain places or people.

If a person is diagnosed with social anxiety (also referred to as social phobia) then his or her life is being substantially affected by the disorder. They will often avoid all types of social occasions, make excuses for missing family gatherings, have few or no friends, often preferring loneliness and isolation because of their inability to make new friends or interact with family members. Quite often people with this disorder will live alone and rarely leave the safety of their home, only venturing out when absolutely necessary. If they need to go out to the store for instance they will go early morning or later at night in the hope of avoiding any contact with anyone who may speak to them or attempt to start up a conversation. This type of anxiety is severely disabling and needs professional help to deal with it.

Treatment for social anxiety can come in the form of prescribed medication, talking therapies which include cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling by a psychotherapist etc. Often a combination of therapy and medication will be prescribed  with the patient being encouraged to gradually increase his or her exposure to the outside world and to social occasions or gatherings.

If you feel your condition goes beyond normal shyness or you are virtually a prisoner in your own home because of the fear you feel just at the thought of  having to meet or speak to anyone then you are almost certainly suffering from social anxiety and need to take steps to deal with this disorder. Talk to your family doctor, explaining how you feel and how your life is severely restricted and work with them to find a way of overcoming your condition. There is help available , you do not have to suffer in silence.

© Andrew Tudor Jones