Social Anxiety & Shyness

Social Anxiety & Shyness

Shyness and social anxiety are common problems that affect both men and women. Most of us feel shy or anxious in social situations at some point in our lives. This can be a much more serious problem for some people however, who find that their lives are made very difficult by their problem. People who suffer from social anxiety often believe that other people will think badly of them or that people will be judging them.

They think that they are being closely observed and scrutinised by other people and they believe they will act in an embarrassing or humiliating way. They would like to give a good impression but at the same time they fear that they are not as good as other people and cannot ‘come up to the mark’. They can very often suffer with low self-esteem.

Common examples of feared situations might include :

  • Having to speak in front of a group of people (performance anxiety)
  • Speaking to strangers or people in authority
  • Participating in meetings
  • Attending parties
  • Eating or drinking in public
  • Writing or working while being observed
  • Dating situations
  • Starting or maintaining a conversation
  • Being the centre of attention

Some people will find ways to protect themselves in threatening situations by carrying out ‘safety behaviours’. These can include not looking people in the eye so as not to draw attention to themselves, rehearsing what they say before speaking, staying close to someone they feel safe with, talking slowly and deliberately, never expressing an opinion, keeping an eye on the escape route and so on. In the long-term, these behaviours can maintain and reinforce the problem.

Social anxiety can often lead to great inconvenience, loss of social life or even affect career prospects.

CBT is the initial choice of treatment for social anxiety.

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