Shyness is a trait that affects many people. As we will see in this article, it can cause us to live with great discomfort in the social relationships we have with others. Related to the above is also social phobia and social inhibition.
Although a priori all three may seem the same, the truth is that they have many differences.
We are going to explain in detail what shyness is and what a shy person is like, what is social inhibition, what is social phobia and what is the difference between all of them. Likewise, we will also comment on how we work on social phobia in therapy.
INDEX OF CONTENTS
What is shyness? How is a shy person?
Shyness, as we can consult in the Oxford Dictionary, is about insecurity or shame when we have to face social situations that may be new. This dictionary also adds that this insecurity or shame makes it difficult for the person to speak with others and, therefore, to have satisfactory social relationships (Oxford Languages, 2022).
In psychology, shyness is defined as: the fear that people will evaluate us negatively in situations in which we have to interact socially. In addition, the above also implies that shy people, when they have to interact with others (known or unknown) try to avoid these situations or withdraw or inhibit themselves before them.
As a summary we could say that the characteristics of a shy person are the following:
- They are people who have a tendency to withdraw or inhibit themselves on a social level.
- They find it difficult to talk about their feelings in front of other people.
- When they have to interact they have high levels of anxiety.
- They do not like to be the center of attention, their goal being to go unnoticed.
- They have a tendency to have a passive communication style (they keep their opinions quiet because of what others would say if they express what they think).
- They care a lot about the opinions of others.
- They often need approval for the things they do.
What is social phobia?
Social phobia, as we have already seen in the article that we dedicated to social phobia, is a mental disorder that is included in the diagnostic manual of mental illnesses of the American Psychiatric Association (APA, 2013). It’s important to note that it may also be known by the term “social anxiety.”
As you can imagine, it is included within anxiety disorders and is defined by the APA (2013) as: fear of those social situations in which we have to be exposed to a possible judgment by others such as: being with strangers, having to give a talk, having to be watched, etc. To the above we must add that the person also has to have fear of showing symptoms in public that are related to anxiety because they believe this could be grounds for rejection. For example, they live with great anxiety about blushing or blushing in front of others.
All these symptoms, in order to be able to diagnose a social phobia, must last for more than six months and must create significant interference in people’s daily lives, causing work, social, family deterioration, etc.
What is the difference between shyness and social phobia?
The most important difference between social phobia and shyness is that social phobia is considered a mental disorder and shyness is not. We could say that shyness is less severe than social phobia. Some authors such as Pellejero et al. (2002) mention that the difference between the two is that the anxiety caused by shyness is less than the anxiety caused by social phobia. They also add that social phobia generates more interference in people’s daily lives than shyness.
Therefore, we could say that the main difference is the level of anxiety that each one produces in us, being a continuum that can go from shyness to social phobia.
What is social inhibition?
Another trait that is often associated with social phobia and shyness is social inhibition. Therefore, we are going to give it a definition.
According to the University of Navarra Clinic (2022) it is about a phenomenon that occurs when we are in a group. What happens is that being part of a groupthe affected person she is less involved than the rest of the group to carry out the task than if she were alone or not part of a group.
This could happen for different reasons. For example, a person with social phobia could also be socially inhibited by fear of what different members of the group will say if they do the task wrong.
As a conclusion, we could say that people with social phobia tend to also be socially inhibited and that this inhibition could be the result of anxiety, poor social skills, etc.
How do we work in therapy to overcome social phobia?
At PsicoGlobal, online therapy, we adapt each treatment to each person and their circumstances. So the way to work this phobia will be different with each person. Even so, the techniques that we usually use in these cases are the following:
- psychoeducation. In order for the affected person to understand what the disorder is, what its symptoms and consequences are, etc.
- cognitive restructuring. When there is social phobia there are usually irrational beliefs, cognitive biases, etc. So cognitive restructuring is used to find ways of thinking more rational and realistic. For example, they learn to identify and correct anticipations or catastrophic thinking.
- Exposure with Response Prevention. EPR is one of the most effective techniques for the treatment of phobias. As a summary, we could say that it is a technique in which the person gradually and progressively faces their fear.
- Relaxation and breathing techniques. As it has a large component of anxiety, it will be necessary for the person to learn breathing and relaxation techniques in order to lower their physiological activation.
- American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5 (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
- University of Navarra Clinic. (2022). Medical dictionary: social inhibition. Recovered from cun.es
- Oxford Languages. (2022). Online dictionary. Retrieved from: languages.oup.com
- Pellejero, M., Vindel, AC, Ferrer, MA, Zuazo, A., & Díez, II (2000). Cognitive, emotional, genetic and differential aspects of shyness. Row, 3(4), 1.