Social Anxiety Disorder or Just Shy?

By Contributed | Social Confidence

Do you Suffer with Social Anxiety Disorder or Shyness? Are you not sure which one or whether the answer is both?

People are often very confused about the condition known as Social Anxiety Disorder, with many of them believing it to be a severe form of shyness; even some of those who feel they have a problem with social anxiety may simply be very shy or lacking in confidence. While it is true that there are many similarities between the two conditions, there are also a number of important differences and these affect the way a sufferer should deal with his or her personal situation.

An outline of the symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

Sometimes called ‘Social Phobia’, this can cause very upsetting feelings of being unsafe and out of control when faced with ordinary social situations; as it is a medical condition, the symptoms are listed on a number of trustworthy websites, such as your country’s own official health information sites. The following symptoms are known to be a major part of the condition, although not all sufferers would experience every symptom.

  • A deep fear of being around other people, such as at school or in work
  • A dread of being the centre of attention, such as performing on stage or standing up in front of the class
  • A tendency to cry, throw tantrums or ‘freeze’
  • Problems when eating or drinking in front of others
  • A severe dislike of talking to or being watched by authority figures, such as teachers, and of talking to or being near to strangers
  • Difficulty coping in social situations, such as when shopping or talking on the telephone

Clearly, many of these problems make the situation far worse; for example, crying can make people more likely to look at the sufferer, who will then come under more stress.

Panic attacks

When faced with a difficult situation, a sufferer may have what is known as a panic attack, which could include: sweating a lot, shaking, crying, feeling sick and having a fast and pounding heart rate. This could last just a few moments or could take a little longer to pass, but is very distressing for the sufferer as well as those around them, who can feel as though they can’t help. There are ways of coping with an attack that can be taught by medical experts.

How is it similar to being shy?

A person who feels awkward in social situations may or may not have a medical condition that makes them feel this way, but there are some symptoms that they may have, even if they are completely well. For example, many people feel uncomfortable around strangers, but they can find ways to cope with it, including staying close to a friend or keeping busy and trying not to attract unwanted attention. Another problem that is the same for both sets of people is a lack of confidence, but if this is caused only by shyness, then it can be overcome by practising whatever task is causing the problem until the person feels more confident.

How can you tell the difference?

Truthfully, it can be really hard to know whether you have social anxiety or not, at times, but there are some signs to look out for. Trying to remember when you’ve felt this way before is very useful; if, in the past, you have felt bad at first but got better as you became used to a new place or new people, then you can feel more confident that this will happen again and you are probably just shy. If your feelings have made you avoid things that are important because you were too scared or upset by them, then it’s more likely that you are an anxiety sufferer and you certainly need to get some help. So, if just the thought of going to school or joining your friends on a trip to the cinema makes you feel ill, it’s important to talk to somebody about it as soon as possible.

Who can help?

One of the main problems with Social Anxiety Disorder is the fact that it can’t be seen, unlike a broken leg or a swollen joint, which means that people will only realise you need help when you tell them that you do. Talking to somebody you trust is the best first step, but it is important to see your doctor; having a friend or family member who can go with you to keep you company and offer support is very useful. The doctor can offer advice, medication and refer you to counselling services, where you can find out what needs to be done. Since there is a stronger possibility of becoming depressed or turning to self-harm, it is better to take steps before these things happen.

Because of the nature of the condition, talking about it can be very difficult, but once you have asked for help, there is a lot that can be done; in addition to the many specialist therapy centres and departments, there are steps you can take to help yourself. Programmes of self-development can be accessed by searching online or via support groups and have been shown to be an effective resource; additionally, there is a wide range of books and recordings to help with relaxation and improving self-confidence, which are often the keys to finding a way to cope.

With an improved attitude to mental health, those suffering from social anxiety, or even just severe shyness, no longer need to suffer in silence.

You can also check out the Free eBook and Coaching Course, by filling in the form further down this page, on how to become a conversation starter when around people you do not know so that you can feel more comfortable and confident in everyday situations.

You can also read many more articles to help you on this website including the related articles listed below.

Important Note

This article is not intended to provide professional diagnosis or help. If you need help you should seek the help of a qualified medical professional or other professional specialist who can work with you personally and provide a diagnosis for you. No online material anywhere can give you a diagnosis, so please seek help if you need it or your condition is seriously affecting the quality of your life. The author or site owner take no responsibility for how you use or interpret this article or any consequences. Please seek professional help if you need it or are unsure you need it.

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