If you have difficulty dealing with situations that involve a lot of people, you may simply be shy or you may be suffering from social anxiety. These two are quite similar, and it's not unusual for one condition to be mistaken for the other. However, it is important to be able to make the distinction between them, especially if you are looking for a way to deal with the condition effectively.
You can use this guide to help determine if you or a loved one is shy by nature or is dealing with the more serious problem of social anxiety.
1: A Personality Trait Versus A Diagnosable Disorder
By definition, shyness is a personality trait. Many people feel nervous about meeting new acquaintances or going to gatherings, and this is perfectly normal. Some prefer to keep their own company or prefer to listen rather than talk in the same way that others love to be the center of attention. Social anxiety, on the other hand, is a disorder recognized in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. It can be diagnosed by several screening tests performed by mental health care professionals.
2: How the Problem is Viewed
One way to make the distinction between the two conditions is to determine how the problem is viewed. Shyness can be seen as an inconvenience, since it can be a nuisance if you can't be yourself around strangers, especially if your circumstances require it of you. However, it rarely casts a negative light on the rest of your life. In fact, some people view their shyness as a positive trait that sets them apart from the rest. On the other hand, social anxiety is definitely seen as a problem. Sufferers believe themselves to be crippled by their inability to interact with others, and this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
3: Intensity of Fear
It is normal for you to get butterflies in your stomach before you have to give a big speech or go on a blind date. You may get sweaty palms before you step up to the podium, or feel like you need to breathe into a paper bag when you get to the restaurant, but this won't get in the way of the task at hand. In social anxiety, however, the fear begins to set in well before the event that triggers it in some cases, it can even build up for months. Dread of an event can even cause full-fledged panic attacks, which may lead to you cancelling or refusing to go to a meeting, no matter how important it is.
4: Level of Avoidance
Shy people may not like having to mingle with people they don't know, and they may try to minimize their interactions with others to keep themselves comfortable. However, if your'e just shy, you will rarely go out of your way to avoid social interaction when it's necessary. Those suffering from social anxiety, on the other hand, will go to extremes to avoid the events they dread. They may stop answering their phones, fake an illness, or hide at home so they won't have to interact with other people.
What really sets social anxiety apart from extreme shyness is the way it disrupts a person's normal activities. Do what you can to make sure you don't disrupt what we consider normal activities by looking at new coping techniques, just follow this link for the best tips and methods to overcome social anxiety.
Fear of what other people might think of you is not limited to big social events where you are the center of attention. It can get in the way of a simple task like going grocery shopping or eating out at a restaurant. If you suffer from social anxiety, you will find yourself unable to do the things you want. In the event that you do pursue an activity, you may end up playing it over and over again in your head, trying to figure out if anything went wrong. This can get in the way of healthy relationships. It will also cause you to miss out on a lot of opportunities in life.
More Possible of Treatments
Treatment is possible for both conditions. In the case of shyness, it may simply be a matter of getting to know others better or going out more frequently. If you have social anxiety, you may need a more standardized form of treatment. Working with social anxiety self-help groups is another effective way to deal with the problem.