There are some people that can talk to anyone. If someone is in a room with them, a friend or stranger, they can fearlessly walk up to that person and start a conversation, with no timidness or hesitation in their voice.
But not everyone is that social, and some people struggle to have conversations – especially with people they do not know. Often, these individuals are described as being “shy.” Sometimes, however, these individuals are struggling with social anxiety disorder, and their shyness is actually a form of moderate to severe anxiety that would benefit from treatment by a mental health professional.
Yet how do you know if it is shyness or social anxiety?
Shyness and Social Anxiety Similarities and Differences
Shyness and social anxiety share many common traits. Both make it harder to socialize with strangers or groups. Both can make it more difficult to have the relationships you want, or participate in some of the activities that you want to enjoy.
But there are key differences between the two, and most of them relate to the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors that occur during social situations.
- Shy people can often motivate themselves to be social with only a little bit of self-talk.
- Shy people may feel a little bit of anxiety, but it is fleeting and easy to manage.
- Shy people often still go out and participate in social activities.
- Shy people do not necessarily feel significant shame or embarrassment at being shy.
On the other hand:
- Social anxiety tends to cause moderate to severe anxiety at the idea of being social.
- Social anxiety comes with a lot of negative self-talk.
- Social anxiety causes increasingly severe physical responses in social situations.
- Social anxiety leads to many negative emotions and overthinking about the experience.
- Social anxiety is difficult to overcome, and can get worse over time.
- Social anxiety makes people avoid possibly enjoyable social situations.
A person that is shy may feel like they want to talk to someone but have a bit of a hard time speaking up. A person with social anxiety is often fearful about talking to that person, worried they’ll embarrass themselves, and may experience severe anxiety that prevents them from engaging with others.
Still, while the two are different, they are not entirely unrelated. Shyness can lead to someone developing social anxiety disorder if their shyness starts to negatively impact their life, and what we call “shyness” could be a form of mild, manageable social anxiety that has the potential to worsen depending on life experience. It may be a personality trait, but it may also be a form of social anxiety that is currently manageable, but could develop into worse symptoms over time.
Evaluating and Treating Your Social Anxiety
It is difficult to live with social anxiety. It is even more difficult to live with social anxiety here in Brooklyn and NYC, as our area is densely packed, brimming with events and social experiences, and often requires socialization in order to navigate the busyness of the city.
At Flourish Psychology, we believe that what matters most is helping you achieve your goals. Whether you have social anxiety or you’re just feeling shy and want a bit more self-confidence to be social, we want to be here to work with you, helping you achieve these goals and live your life the way you want to live. Contact us today to learn more.