Shyness? ... or Social Anxiety?

Shyness? ... or Social Anxiety?

Many people may seem shy, introverted or relatively antisocial, at first impression. They usually avoid looking into their eyes and speak little or in a very low tone, thus avoiding being the center of attention. This picture of Social Anxiety is not a weakness or a characteristic of personality. It is an Anxiety Disorder and as such, affects behavior, thoughts and feelings. It is a very frequent disorder, occupying between the 2nd and 3rd place in relation to alcoholism and depression. Statistics indicate that 13 out of 100 people suffer from this disorder, in a greater proportion of men than women.

When we talk about Social Anxiety Disorder, we are referring to a picture that is characterized by excessive and irrational fear of the possibility of feeling negatively evaluated by others in social situations.


  • 1 When anxiety appears
  • 2 Consequences of social anxiety
  • 3 Avoidance due to social anxiety

When anxiety appears

Anxiety occurs in certain well-defined situations.. Some feel intense fear, only in a given situation; such as speaking in public. In others, anxiety appears in various situations where they fear that their performance or performance may become inappropriate or ridiculous, such as: going to a party, eating or drinking in public places, taking an oral exam and relating With people of the opposite sex.

Usually people who suffer from this disorder usually become abnormally anxious when they talk to bosses or people who for them can represent authority, reaching the point of rejecting promotions or other acknowledgments, if this implies greater exposure to the situation that causes them anxiety; such as having a group of people to supervise under their responsibility.

These people tend to underestimate their own abilities and qualities and magnify the social or personal ability of others. They usually have difficulties to initiate or maintain friendships, so they lack or have a restricted circle of friends and acquaintances, regardless of their close relatives.

Often, due to excessive prior anxiety (anticipatory anxiety), they decide at the last moment not to attend meetings or social commitments to avoid the discomfort that could cause them, being experts in finding excuses (which the family usually takes charge of transmitting) , causing anger and misunderstanding.

In formal situations these people usually get anxious and hypercritical thinking for example What will that person be thinking of me? o What am I supposed to say later?

Consequences of social anxiety

The levels of anxiety experienced in such situations, can cause the forgetting of a series of thoughts (blank mind), salad of words, respond with monosyllables, begin to laugh or remain silent at inappropriate times. This is because these people have a predisposition to change the direction of attention to others and the situation, rather than directing them towards their own feelings. People who suffer from Social Anxiety try to avoid the risk of exposure whenever possible.

Before the extreme anxiety that trigger these situations trigger a series of physical symptoms such as: flushing or redness, excessive perspiration, tremor, tachycardia, muscle contractions, nausea or gastrointestinal discomfort, stomach tightness, weakness in the legs, frequent urination.

The person recognizes the irrationality of what is happening and has two alternatives:

Avoidance due to social anxiety

The confrontation of the situation is its great difficulty and the family nucleus is inevitably involved. Often it is the obligation to give the face, to excuse the last-minute absences of the affected relative or accompany him, acting as a counterphobic element. By ignoring the problem, the family often acts with hostility, pressing the sick relative to face the dreaded situation, calling it lazy or fearful, which makes the situation worse.

This disorder is associated with the main complications associated with alcohol, drugs, psychoactive drugs and depression. Unemployment, less education, social deficit, greater economic dependence, difficulties in forming a couple and eventually staying in marriage.

It follows from this, the way in which this disorder impoverishes the quality of life of the affected people; and without treatment it can become an invalidating disease.

Dr. Andrea R. Sala
Psychiatry, Psychology