knowing yourself social anxiety steps

Shyness vs Social Anxiety

Although shyness and social anxiety do share some characteristics, they are not the same thing. Some shy people have social anxiety disorder (SAD) and some do not. Additionally, some people with SAD are not actually shy at all. There are are so many similarities between the two, that social anxiety disorder is often dismissed as extreme shyness. So, how can we tell the difference?

What is Social Anxiety?

According to psychologist Thomas Richards, Director of the Social Anxiety Institute, social anxiety is “the fear of social situations and the interaction with other people that can automatically bring on feelings of self-consciousness, judgment, evaluation and inferiority.” People with social anxiety know that their fear is unreasonable, but they cannot help it.

A socially anxious person will attempt to avoid any situation that could lead to these feelings. If left untreated and allowed to spiral out of control, social anxiety can negatively impact a person’s relationships, routine, social activities, and occupation. Again, social anxiety and shyness are not the same thing. Related: What Social Anxiety Feels Like

What is Shyness?

The American Psychological Association defines shyness as “the tendency to feel awkward, worried or tense during social encounters, especially with unfamiliar people.” Everyone has felt shy at some point in their lives, and many people (approx. half of Americans) acknowledge that they are the shy type.

Regular shyness isn’t fear based, but it can escalate into severe shyness in some. In severe shyness, people may withdraw from social interactions, have worries about how others view them, negative feelings about themselves, and even some physical symptoms.

Shyness vs Social Anxiety

Some people are completely comfortable with their shyness. Other are more hesitant to embrace their shyness, but it doesn’t impact their day to day choices. Someone who is socially anxious on the other hand, will constantly beat themselves up over having the condition. They will over-analyze, worry, overthink, and anticipate anxiety in a vicious cycle which continually reinforces the social anxiety. It festers in the mind constantly and can take over your life.

For someone who doesn’t understand the difference between shyness and social anxiety, their advice can come across as useless. They may say, “don’t worry” or “relax, you’re fine”, but for the person suffering from social anxiety, these words of advice won’t help. The socially anxious person is usually quite intelligent and realizes that their fear, doubts, and worries are irrational. If they could stop it so easily, they would.

Overcome Shyness and Social Anxiety Steps

What now? Now you understand the differences between shyness, severe shyness, and social anxiety, take the next step. Understand why am I shy, how anxiety tricks you, and then take some steps to overcome shyness and social anxiety.

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