” When shyness becomes social anxiety?” – Jane, tells her mum that she feels nervous whenever her teacher asks her a question or two in class. She wishes the ground to open up and take her away. She also finds it hard to talk with her classmates during school for fear of saying the wrong things.
John, her older brother is quite the opposite. He just went off to college and finds it a bit hard interacting with other students. He finds himself alone in his class and his room in his first few weeks in school. Although he too does not like the spotlight in his class. He has no problem giving a wrong answer in class or speaking in a study group discussion.
The Difference between Social Anxiety and Shyness
People often confuse Social anxiety and shyness with each other. However, they differ mainly. The stories above about Jane and John describe what social anxiety and shyness are.
Social anxiety, or social phobia, is a mental health condition in which an individual has fear of being in a certain social situation, such that they would experience distress when they are exposed to such situations. This is often for fear of someone judging or embarrassing them. This is what Jane is dealing with.
Shyness, on the other hand, is not a mental health condition. It is a personality trait with escaping behaviour when in an unfamiliar place, as with John in the story above. This often reduces as you become familiar with your surroundings and the people around you. Shyness is normal behaviour that affects everyone at some points in their lives.
However, when shyness becomes exhausting and impairs your behaviour around people, and leads you to avoid that situation almost all the time, it becomes social anxiety.
Causes of Social Anxiety
It is a form of anxiety that comes in social situations. You may feel this when:
· Talking to a group of people.
· Attending a social gathering, such as parties or conferences
· Having to interact with other people.
· Using public transportation
· Waiting inline
· Eating, drinking, or answering a phone call in front of other people.
John had slight difficulty socializing with others in his first weeks at school, as with many of us when we just got to college, he has no problem being or speaking in a group of people.
Social anxiety is a side of psychology that is unrecognizing and underdiagnosed.
Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Being exposed to these situations often triggers stress reaction, which is the body’s flight-and-fight response when exposed to a stressor. This stress reaction produces physical and psychological symptoms intended to help you escape from the seemingly harmful boosts. These include:
· Fast heart rate
· Heavy breathing
· Being dumbfounded or speaking
too slowly or too quickly
· Fear of being judged or
· Excessive self-consciousness
If these reactions are triggered in the absence of a harmful boost or to the offending stimulus, it is considered an anxiety response.
Treatment for Social Anxiety.
The most effective treatment for social anxiety is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), a technique that teaches an individual to rethink their thoughts and actions and replace them with positive ones. Medications are not effective for treating social anxiety since they do not address the root of social phobia.
Using CBT techniques, Jane can replace thoughts of being judged or embarrassed in class with “It is not out of the ordinary to get a question wrong in class and that gives me the opportunity to learn the right answer”, For instance, CBT also helps Jane pay attention to her symptoms when in such social situations and immediately fight them with positive behaviours. Smiling while making her presentation or making the first move to interact with others in the classroom.
CBT helps to rebuild one’s insight of themselves and their environment, creating a healthier balance between their identity and social insight.
Social anxiety and shyness differ in many ways. Shyness may be a normal personality trait characterized by a slightly awkward response in unfamiliar places. However, when shyness results in severe distress in such social situations, such that you constantly fear and avoid such situations, you may have social anxiety.