When does shyness become a disorder? This is a pivotal question that people should be aware of. Everyone knows what a shy person is like: quiet, hates to be the center of attention, nervous about standing out, etc.; however people can rarely tell the difference between someone who is shy versus someone who is suffering from social anxiety disorder. Social anxiety disorder is when a person has an irrational fear of social situations while shyness is the difficulty but not impossibility to participate in group activities and other social situations. The difference between social anxiety and shyness is very significant; in order to treat an individual effectively it is vital to accurately distinguish between the two conditions.
Social Anxiety Disorder is the third most common psychiatric disorder in the world following major depression and substance abuse. Social phobia and social anxiety disorder can be used interchangeably.
Those who suffer from social phobia have an ongoing fear of being scrutinized, judged, and embarrassed in public places.
There are also several physical symptoms that occur to those suffering from Social anxiety disorder:
- Fast heartbeat.
- Upset stomach or nausea.
- Trouble catching your breath.
- Dizziness or lightheadedness.
- Confusion or feeling “out of body”
- Muscle tension.
According to a 2007 ADAA survey, 36% of people with social anxiety disorder report-experiencing symptoms for ten or more years before seeking help. According to Christian Nordqvist, social anxiety disorder is an “excessive emotional discomfort, anxiety, fear or worry about social situations.” It is normal to feel nervous in situations like giving a presentation, having a job interview, and going on a date. This nervousness becomes social anxiety disorder when everyday social interactions cause an extreme amount of fear.
Shyness simply refers to nervousness in social situations. People who suffer from shyness tend to be standoffish, bashful, extremely self-conscious, and may come across as insecure. Although it may seem that shyness is just as bad as social anxiety, in reality social anxiety disorder can have a much worse impact on one’s life.
This pie chart shows that there are so many people in the world who are shy but that doesn’t mean they have social anxiety disorder. It is possible to just be shy. Social anxiety disorder affects about 6% of the United States population, which is more than 17 million people.
It is hard to know how a person is feeling. They may come across just a little shy but you don’t know how they are struggling internally.
Social Anxiety is a medical disorder that needs to be treated and can’t go away on its own while shyness can go away without treatment. Shyness does not put a stop to everyday functioning. On the other hand, social anxiety can completely interfere with your daily life. There are similarities between shyness and social anxiety disorder but in all social anxiety disorder is much more severe and threatening to a person’s life.