Social Phobia and Shyness: How Do They Differ?

Many confuse Shyness with Social Phobia; however, these are two very distinct concepts.
It’s easy to confuse introversion with Shyness and Social phobia, although these are very different realities. The misunderstanding arises from the fact that these conditions have some commonalities, even if their limits reveal great differences. The similarity only appears in certain formal aspects, which can be misleading.
Social Phobia and Shyness

If introversion is a question of temperament, shyness is at the level of psychosocial education. Social phobia, on the other hand, fits the psychopathological ground, although it is not strictly speaking an illness in itself. The common thing to all is reluctance or obstacle to socialize. This last point is the predominant trait of shyness and social phobia.
Shyness and social phobia present a common factor that is decisive: fear. What differentiates one condition from another is the intensity of that fear and the degree of limitations it imposes. While a shy person may just want to go unnoticed, a person with a social phobia desires that social contact that they cannot maintain.
Shy People

Shy People

Shy people can depend heavily on the opinions of others. Someone who is shy may have a strong desire to express what they think and feel or to interact more actively with others, but shy away from it. He does this because he runs into his fear of what others may think or say about his words or behavior.
We can say that a shy person is excessively vulnerable to criticism from others. She craves social approval more acutely than usual (or fears its absence).
This happens because she feels that she does not have enough psychological tools to accept rejection or to endure conflict with others. She devalues herself and assumes that an injury to her ego will only heal after she has suffered a lot.
Shyness is the result of an education that restricts or undermines social skills. The person grew up feeling inadequate or inferior to others. She has been the subject of harsh criticism or intense rejection which has left a significant mark on her way of being. This person, therefore, rather than overcoming their shyness, restructures their image of themselves.
Social Phobia and Shyness: How Do They Differ?

Social Phobia

Dr. Vanessa Abrines Bendayan, Master of Clinical Psychology, defines social phobia as “an irrational and disproportionate fear that arises in certain situations of social interaction. The person is convinced that they will act in an inappropriate, ridiculous, embarrassing or humiliating manner “. The key word in this definition is “disproportionate”.
Indeed, this means that shyness and social phobia are very close concepts, but there is a plus, a notable excess in the second case. Anyone with a social phobia no longer seeks to cut down on encounters with others, or to refrain from speaking out, but enters into a certain state of panic.
She shies away from contact with people she does not know and often experiences physical symptoms such as dizziness, tachycardia, hot flashes, heat or sweating. She doesn’t know why, but strangers terrify her. The person with social phobia paralyzes or loses control in social situations.
This phobia can be generalized or specific. In the first case, the subject feels a lot of fear in the face of any type of social situation. In the second case, the exaggerated fear is limited to certain situations or people. The level of anxiety is also high in both cases.
Shyness and Social Phobia

Shyness and Social Phobia

The most significant difference between shyness and social phobia is the intensity of the symptoms. However, there are other relevant contrasts. Shyness, for example, can be transient. In general, almost all people experience an increase in it during their teenage years. This is because the self-image is then under construction, so there are stages where it is very fragile.
Social phobia, on the other hand, is a condition that tends to increase and become chronic. What is behind it is no longer just a story of rejection or questioning, but a trauma. In other words, sudden situations that deeply affected the psyche. This trauma can be linked to major physical, psychological or sexual abuse.
Either way, shyness and social phobia are conditions that limit a person and do not allow him to develop fully individually or socially. There are classes or therapies that help overcome shyness. In the case of social phobia, a formal therapeutic process, usually with a good prognosis, is required.


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