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Shyness or Social Anxiety Disorder

November 21, 2011

What is the difference between shyness and social anxiety disorder?

Many people are shy…to various degree’s. Meeting someone for the first time, going on a date, being introduced to a group of new people etc, are all situations where a person may feel shy. Shyness may be defined loosely as discomfort and/or inhibition in social situations, however the level of discomfort is more or less relative to what may be generally be ‘expected in that situation’.

If everyone who was shy also had social anxiety disorder (SAD) then there would certainly be many people with SAD.

What distinguishes SAD from shyness is that the emotional intensity and discomfort felt by an individual with SAD is much more severe than with shyness. There is also a greater degree of avoidance of social situations and triggers. Individuals with SAD are generally more preoccupied by their social fears and their fears often cause them some difficulty or ‘impairment’ in their ability to socialize, make friends and maintain relationships. The social anxiety may also impair other areas of life such as work, at home with immediate family or even hobbies and recreational activities. Individuals who have SAD are also more likely to feel down and defeated by social situations. They frequently have more negative thoughts about social situations and are often quite self-critical about their performance in social situations. 


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