Maybe you have a tendency to become really nervous before engaging in a meeting with new people. You’d prefer to have friends over in a familiar space than go somewhere you have never been. Perhaps awkwardness and discomfort fill you up and stops you from saying much around colleagues from another department. Your shyness can make it challenging to participate in social and work functions, but for the most part, you can manage it enough to get by. Social anxiety disorder (SAD), on the other hand, is much more intense and restrictive.
What Causes Shyness?
Shyness is a personality trait that is thought to stem from being overly self-conscious, having low self-esteem, and fearing judgment and rejection. Environmental and biological influences combine to produce a trait that makes socializing a struggle. Maybe your parents were overprotective, or you had limited social opportunities. Cultural norms and parenting styles can contribute to or reduce shyness.
Other children are born with a highly reactive temperament and, as a result, grow up to be shy. One study found that a significant predictor of shyness during middle childhood is the demonstration of behavioral inhibition. Behavioral inhibition is a trait that tends towards distress and nervousness in novel situations. The researchers also found that higher inhibitory control—the ability to inhibit your impulses—during childhood predicted shyness in later life.
Extreme Shyness Can Lead to Social Anxiety
Shyness might just be a part of who you are. Maybe you accept that but are coping with the discomfort that it causes you at work and during social outings. However, it is important to understand that although shyness is different from SAD, extreme shyness has been associated with the development of SAD. Pay attention to severe symptoms that are preventing you from functioning at work, forming new relationships, and building your career. You could be experiencing more than just shyness.
SAD is a common and serious mental health condition that can hinder your ability to interact with others and get things done. According to MedlinePlus, SAD is characterized by “a persistent and irrational fear of situations that may involve scrutiny or judgment by others, such as at parties and other social events.”
This condition affects about 12.1% of U.S. adults at some time in their lives. If you are unsure about your particular condition, don’t be afraid to ask questions and explore your situation further. Shyness is something many can cope with, but SAD is a more serious condition that typically requires clinical help.
Signs to Look Out For
The National Institute of Mental Health explains some symptoms you can experience if you have SAD:
- Rigid body posture
- Avoiding eye contact
- Speaking with an overly soft voice
- Rapid heart rate, sweating, trembling
- Extreme fear that others will judge you
- Avoiding places where there are other people
- Difficulty talking to people even though you want to
- Feeling embarrassed and awkward in front of people
One challenging aspect of SAD is that you may really want to engage with others. For example, you are sure the business pitch you have developed is going to hook that client. However, the fear of being humiliated, judged, or rejected might cause you to bail on giving that pitch yourself. Other situations, like attending a networking event or using a public restroom, might be too overwhelming. Eating, drinking, and writing may be activities that you only feel comfortable doing in privacy.
Professionals Can Manage Social Anxiety
Social anxiety can set in at the most inconvenient times: during meetings, presentations, or even in simple interactions with colleagues. Finding ways to manage your condition is a necessary step to not only improving the quality of your life but to prevent other disorders. Individuals with SAD sometimes use alcohol or drugs to interact in social situations. Continued use can lead to an addiction that will complicate your condition and require treatment in a professional treatment program.
SAD is typically treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT offers alternative ways to think, behave, and react to particular situations so you can feel less fearful. You can also develop social skills and practice in a group setting. By the very nature of support groups being interactive, you might find them to be valuable in helping you improve. Anti-anxiety and depression medications are also an option.
If you find yourself struggling while at work, find a quiet space and think about what you learned in therapy. Instead of focusing so much on what you feel, shift your attention to what needs to get done and visualize how you will accomplish the task. Be realistic about the outcome of your participation, especially if the task is something you have done many times before.
Spend a couple of minutes asking yourself questions like, “If I say something awkward, what’s the worst that can happen?” Your answer might be something like, “They might be a little confused, but they’ll probably keep talking to me.” Making sense of your fears can force your brain to be a little more logical and less emotional. +Extreme shyness during childhood can lead to social anxiety disorder (SAD) as an adult. SAD is a mental health condition characterized by persistent and irrational fears of situations involving other people. Professionals with SAD may develop an addiction while trying to cope. You can find help waiting for you at Oceanfront Recovery. Located in Laguna Beach, California, our fully licensed residential treatment program is designed with our professional clients in mind. We know you have a busy and stressful life, but with Oceanfront Recovery, you don’t need to be last on your to-do list anymore. Getting you back to health and stability means getting you back to building your career. We also understand there is a stigma to addiction. Our discreet and compassionate admissions staff can help you determine if our Executive Rehab Center is right for you and how we can best arrange your therapies to fit into your schedule. Call us today at (877) 279-1777.