Social anxiety vs shyness, which one can you relate to? It can be hard to determine the difference because they often share characteristics.
This is something that really interests me—and bothers me at the same time. At some point or another, we all wonder and weigh the traits to understand the differences between social anxiety vs shyness in our lifetimes.
A short history of social anxiety vs shyness in my life
As a young girl, I was incredibly shy. I had hair so long I often sat on it and a love for books and flowers and dogs. Notice that I didn’t mention friends or people in general? Yeah, I wasn’t a huge fan. I had two friends and that was all I really needed. My teachers used to tell my mom that I never talked, and I was well behaved. My mom didn’t believe it, because of course, at home I was a little hellion.
Fast-forward five years and I was a social butterfly, as my mom liked to call it. I couldn’t get enough of people, I began to get in trouble at school for talking too much. If I was moved around the class to interrupt chatting, I would just chat to whoever was next to me. [Read: 13 steps to break you out of your shy shell for good]
Now? I still like to talk. I coined myself a social introvert, because I thoroughly enjoy social interactions, but when I’m out of “social juice,” it’s time for me to go home and hangout with my dog. What that also means, and something that I’ve recognized in my twenties, is social anxiety hits me like a brick wall, completely out of nowhere.
I work in retail, and this is where I tend to notice it the most. In the middle of a busy Saturday, I will have an anxiety attack because there is just too many people. It becomes too “peoplely,” and I can’t handle it. It’s interesting how life changes our social behaviors and reactions. [Read: Understanding introvert burnout and how to deal with it]
Understanding the difference: Social anxiety vs shyness
Now that I’ve talked too much about my experience with social anxiety and shyness, it’s time to talk about YOU! Where do you think you fit in this mix? Do you suffer from social anxiety? Or do you think you are just shy?
Now, I’m not remotely qualified to tell you whether or not you have social anxiety–since it’s a real disorder. I just share my thoughts to help you reflect and understand yourself better. If you want a real diagnosis, please seek someone that paid much more for school than I did. Really.
To sum it up, social anxiety is basically the act of becoming overwhelmed in social situations, whether at parties, work, or in one-on-one conversations. If you think you might have social anxiety, check out this list of possible symptoms. These symptoms appear during social interactions or during the very thought of social interactions. [Read: Are you socially awkward? 16 easy hacks to loosen up and live life]
Symptoms of social anxiety
– Clammy hands
– Heavy breathing
– Fast breathing
– Blackened vision *edges of vision begin to darken and blur*
– Redness in face or chest
– Overthinking social situations and interactions *Going over conversations several times in your head before they occur*
– Fear of making phone calls
– Avoided situations where you may be the center of attention
– Constant worry over humiliation or embarrassment
– Overanalyzing social situations after they occur
Some people are just shy, guys. Often young girls are shy, and I think this is just because we haven’t yet found our power. Just wait, those shy girls will grow into powerful women. Stand back, they could evolve any minute now.
Shyness is not a social disorder like social anxiety, and it cannot be treated with medication or counseling. Shyness is simply a personality trait, and is commonly mistaken for social anxiety. While shyness on its own is nothing to worry about, it does commonly accompany a social disorder. [Read: The best ways to kick shyness to the curb]
The following are signs and symptoms of shyness:
Symptoms of shyness
– No small talk
– Fear of public speaking
– Fear of job interviews
– Covers mouth when talking
– Often covers up with clothing
– Fear of speaking to the opposite sex
– Doesn’t date often or at all
– Fear of talking to superiors
– Fear of meeting new people
– Avoids eye contact
– Speaks very quietly
– Possibly self-consciousness
Social anxiety vs shyness – The subtle differences
Understand the difference between the two now? Basically, social anxiety is a real social disorder and needs to be treated with mediation and/or therapy. Shyness is just a personality trait that often accompanies a social disorder, such as social anxiety.
Social anxiety tends to be more intense, because you can pass out or become ill. While it is also possible to experience this if you are shy, it is very common in social anxiety disorders. While shyness is often partnered with social anxiety, social anxiety is not always associated with shy people. Myself as an example, I’m not a shy person. I consider myself rather outgoing, but social anxiety tends to hit me out of nowhere, and when it hits me, it hits hard. [Read: Social anxiety to social butterfly – How to be less awkward]
On the flip side, I know many people that suffer from social anxiety that are actually very introverted people. In this case, I would say that their social anxiety might be even more heightened because they spend less time with people, so when they have to do so, it becomes increasingly difficult.
There are countless social disorders that mimic social anxiety, and as such, if you feel as though you may be suffering from social anxiety or something similar, I highly encourage you to seek professional help. I know many of us fear the stigma tied to going to therapy, but it is truly important to seek help when we need it. We are only human, and sometimes we need help from one another. There is no shame in that.