Shyness and social anxiety
Social anxiety is a major source of distress for many people. As many as 15 million Americans have a degree of it, according to mental health experts. Some people find they feel the discomfort physically with symptoms like a racing heart, dry mouth, and butterflies in the stomach. What others seem to take for granted can become a miserable experience for those suffering from social anxiety.
All sorts of social situations can trigger a bout of self-conscious anxiety and shyness. Some people find themselves not speaking up for themselves at work. Others find it makes them too anxious to introduce themselves to others at a bar or the gym. Or they avoid social situations all together, becoming isolated at home.
Most of us find ourselves a little shy at times.
Especially if we’re introverted by nature. But when the problem starts to really interfere with the enjoyment of day-to-day life, social anxiety is more than simple shyness. Well-meaning friends may tell us to get over it, often that is too simple an answer. If we’re not prepared, we may put ourselves in a situation where we’re overwhelmed with anxiety, only to find that all our self-doubts making it difficult to enjoy ourselves and get on with our lives.
For shy people, the problem is often a high level of self-consciousness combined with negative thoughts. We imagine everyone is looking at us and judging us. Or the chatter in our heads becomes a flood of negativity. “No one would be interested in what I have to say.” “If I introduce myself to him, I’ll probably forget his name right away.” “What’s the point of starting up a conversation with him when I’ll just look stupid?” These critical voices are like a Greek chorus of discouragement in our heads. These thoughts provoke anxiety. We may even lie to friends to avoid accepting social invitations where we feel we’ll fail ourselves.
Another trap is over-scrutinizing our own words, thoughts and behaviors. We nit-pick ourselves. If we fear embarrassment we may end up waiting until the perfect moment when we’ll know just what to do or say…then we watch opportunity after opportunity simply slip away as we sit in the background, analyzing. The right moment never comes. We’re paralyzed.
In reality, most people are probably thinking of themselves and their own worries rather than wondering why you made some small social blunder.
Social anxiety complicates dating and making friends.
Some single people find themselves especially shy in social situations that are the opening gambits in the intimacy game. They long for a relationship but fear they are clueless about how to find someone to start the process of dating.
Nowadays there’s a pill for just about everything, and shyness is no exception. It’s true that some social anxiety can be helped by the selective use of medication, especially if the anxiety has become debilitating. Judicious use of medication can help. But medication alone won’t get us past these problems. The answer is gaining greater self-knowledge and mastering new skills to become more comfortable in social situations.
For some single people, the rush to date might best be put on hold for a little while so they can master some of the social skills that make friendships and other intimate relationships more rewarding.
Remember, you’re more than your problem with shyness or social anxiousness. When you learn to let your real self out you will find you can enjoy life and get more of what you want.
Let’s look at an approach for reducing and managing social anxiety.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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