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Shyness and Social Anxiety

All of us feel shy or anxious in social situations now and again. Some experience social anxiety in their youth, and for some it continuous through life affecting their life-style, career choices, and social life. People that suffer from social phobias tend to avoid feared situations, therefore miss out on many enjoyable activities, like small group gatherings, dating, parties, restaurants, etc. Social anxiety or phobia can range from fear to panic attacks, and may manifest itself as blushing, excessive sweating, nausea, shaking, etc. The persistent fear of one or several social situations, which exceeds ‘normal shyness’ and leads to social avoidance is called social anxiety disorder.

Causes and Symptoms of Social Anxiety

shyness and social anxiety

The exact causes of social anxiety are yet to be discovered. It is believed that anxiety starts at a certain point in one’s life and, gradually if ignored, a mild social awkwardness can develop into a severe social anxiety or phobia. A variety of genetic, social and physiological factors can trigger the disorder. Social experiences, like being bullied or prolonged feelings of not fitting-in, or being rejected can cause social anxiety. Individuals with hyper sensitivity and low self-esteem are more likely to develop this disorder. It has been discovered that people in Scandinavian countries suffer from social anxiety more than natives of the Mediterranean region.

People with social phobias tend to feel overly self-conscious within a group of people, and especially with strangers.

They may have high performance standards for themselves, and a fear of disappointing others. The negative thoughts of the past social event can haunt them for weeks suggesting that they were not good enough and underperformed. The common symptoms of social anxiety include thinking negatively of the past neutral situations, and concentrating exclusively on negative social experiences whilst skipping the positive ones.

Social anxiety can manifest itself in tears, nausea, excessive sweating, palpitation, shaking or blushing. It can even impair a way we walk, especially when we feel being observed. These visible symptoms further reinforce a fear of social encounters, as the sufferers think their anxiety is obvious, and can feel both embarrassed and judged. In some cases individuals resort to so called ‘safety behaviors’, e.g. sticking besides a good friend at a party; staying silent when in a small group to avoid looking foolish or blushing, etc. In more severe cases people affected by the disorder choose to avoid feared situations all together and even isolate themselves from society.

Social Anxiety Treatment

Recent studies have proved that social phobia/anxiety affects 13.3 percent of people of different ages. According to the study women suffer more often than men, and public speaking and performance fear are the most common. Unfortunately, experts believe that if untreated, social phobia goes to the chronic form and never disappears by itself. Currently there are two main forms of successfully treating/managing social anxiety disorder: certain medications and Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). The latter is a specific form of short-term psychotherapy, which centers on a gradual exposure to feared situations.

There are also other, easily accessible online, self help methods and natural anxiety treatments developed by therapists and life coaches, which challenge unhelpful thoughts and behaviors in order to help to overcome phobia and shyness.

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