Extremely Shy or Socially Anxious? The Difference Matters

anxietyShyness is an automatic response when you experience situations that take you out of your comfort zone: job interviews, celebrations, dating, difficult phone calls, and other social occasions.

Feeling shy around people (especially the new ones you meet) is natural. But when you experience intense fear or concern over having to interact in a social setting, it might no longer just be shyness at play.

Social Anxiety, Not Shyness

The Social Anxiety Institute considers shyness as a personality trait. Some people are fine with being shy; they do not let their shyness affect their choices in life. They go about their daily routines without viewing it as a negative trait.

People with social anxiety disorder (SAD), on the other hand, over-think and over-analyze what others will think of them. Their fear of social situations and people leads to feelings of inferiority, inadequacy, embarrassment, self-consciousness, and depression. Socially anxious individuals endure high levels of anxiety in their daily activities, which makes them unable to participate in many social gatherings.

The main symptoms that distinguish social anxiety from extreme shyness are:

  • High level of avoidance
  • Intense fear
  • Impaired functioning

While shyness can evolve into social anxiety, it’s not always a natural progression. In fact, some people with social anxiety can come across as friendly. Underneath the surface, however, they struggle with anxious thoughts that limit them from healthily coping with social situations.

Recovering from Social Anxiety

Overcoming shyness can be a straightforward process. With time, effort, and the desire to change, you can build your self-confidence and face the world.

With social anxiety disorder, however, recovery requires more than just building your confidence. There are numerous ways to overcome your struggle with SAD.


Themarriageandfamilyclinic.com, a provider of counseling services, believes that counseling provides struggling individuals with the necessary tools to overcome their social anxiety. Counseling or talking therapy means dedicating some time to confront your feelings and anxieties. During your session, your counselor will encourage you to release all of your pent-up emotions and face them at your own pace.

This cathartic experience purges you of pent-up emotions, which leads to peace of mind.

Behavioral Therapy

Behavioral therapy is also helpful for people with SAD. This type of therapy changes how you act. Instead of avoiding people and other social situations, you will learn how to feel confident and comfortable when you act. It also helps you progress against social anxiety by establishing the right cognitive framework.

By being more rational with your progress, you can move on without dwelling on old anxieties and feelings from the past.

Cognitive Therapy

Cognitive therapy teaches your brain to view things from a different perspective. You learn to manage your anxieties and determine whether your beliefs are rational or not. Cognitive therapy programs focus on helping you stop unwanted thinking so you can think clearly and rationally during social events.

The boundaries of shyness and social anxiety overlap, but they are different constructs. Unlike shyness, overcoming SAD will require more than just self-encouragement. It’s best to know where you stand on the shyness spectrum so you can receive immediate help if necessary.