From shyness to social phobia: what they are and how they are treated

Shyness becomes a problem that affects hundreds of thousands of people, often with negative consequences that go beyond mere discomfort. however, being shy does not mean having a psychological disorder; rather, it is a personality trait that can present itself in varying degrees of intensity.

Something Very Different Happens With Social Phobia, Which is a disorder and puts the person in difficulty when trying to maintain a good quality of life.

In this article, we will look at what these two psychological phenomena are and what psychological therapy is done to help people who suffer from either.

    Social phobia and shyness: differences

    These two concepts are similar in several ways, but they should be distinguished.

    Shyness, as we have already seen, is a personality trait linked to pessimistic predictions about how others will see us. The idea of ​​being a person having problems being accepted or appreciated by others breeds personal insecurities, which is why those who are shy avoid being the center of attention, and prefer not to expose much to situations in which they can be appreciated by strangers.

    So while there are always exceptions, in general terms, shy people tend not to have large groups of good friends, tend to go out less to socialize, and have more individual and introspective habits.

    On the other hand, there is social phobia, also known as social anxiety disorder. In this case, the anguish generated by the possibility of experiencing ridicule or rejection by others is so intense that the person obsessively avoids such situations as much as possible. Outraged, when exposed to contexts in which it attracts the attention of several people, it can barely mask anxiety, And their priority is to get out of that place (although that does get more attention, ironically).

    In this case, we are talking about a psychological disorder from the group of phobias, and that is why it can generate symptoms so intense that they have clinical relevance; that is, they are reason enough to seek help from medical professionals. The more time passes without having intervened in this tendency to develop moments of great anxiety, the more the negative consequences accumulate.: Giving up good jobs, practically impossible to make friends or find a partner, etc.

      What do you do in therapy to overcome these problems?

      Both the problems associated with social phobia and very marked shyness can be addressed in psychotherapy, although shyness is much less serious than the phobia.

      In the case of shyness, being more of a personality trait, therapy won’t make it go away, but it helps to express it in a much more adaptive way, And even the fact that it is not noticed at key moments, such as performances in front of the audience. In the case of social phobia, on the other hand, the discomfort caused by exposure of strangers rarely goes away completely, but it can weaken so much that it does not limit well-being or prevent a normal life. .

      How is this done? There are different ways of leading a therapeutic change, and the overall objective of the intervention of psychologists emphasizes the need to promote other ways of interpreting reality and interacting with others. This way, it intervenes both in physical actions and in mental processes, Both in cognitive and in those that affect emotions.

      Some of the techniques used in therapy to help these people are as follows, although they are always adapted to the particular case of each patient:

      ⦁ Live exposure to social situations ⦁ Systematic desensitization ⦁ Psychoeducation, to get rid of unnecessary worries ⦁ Cognitive restructuring to challenge limiting beliefs ⦁ Exercises to improve expression skills ⦁ Exercises to improve non-verbal communication ⦁ Creation of socialization guidelines to be done between sessions ⦁ Collaborative work with relatives (if necessary and possible)


      Psychological professionals specializing in psychotherapy use resources such as cognitive behavioral therapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, emotional release techniques, and other scientifically created means. to facilitate the patient’s transition to this new way of getting closer to others.

      Of course, those who go into therapy must be able to engage in this process of change for the better, because psychologists don’t impose anything or transform individuals if they don’t do their part.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Beesdo, K .; Bittner, A .; Pi, DS; Stein, MB; Höfler, M .; Lieb, R .; Wittchen, HU (2007). Incidence of social anxiety disorder and constant risk of secondary depression during the first three decades of life. Archives of general psychiatry. 64 (8): pages 903 to 912.
      • Crozier, WR (2001). Understanding Shyness: Psychological Perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave.
      • Stein, MD; Murray B .; Gorman, MD; Jack M. (2001). Unmasking Social Anxiety Disorder. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience. 3.26 (3): 185 – 189.
      • Xu, Y .; Schneier, F .; Heimberg, RG; Princisvalle, K .; Liebowitz, MR; Wang, S .; Blanco, C. (2012). “Gender Differences in Social Anxiety Disorder: Results from the National Epidemiological Sample on Alcohol and Related Conditions”. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 26 (1): pages 12 to 19.

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