What is Social Anxiety Disorder?
In social anxiety disorder, the person fears that they will be embarrassed or humiliated by their behaviors or by their anxiety. They are convinced that others will judge them harshly or be overly critical of them. They believe this exposure will inevitably end with them being rejected by others and there is no hope of acceptance. Usually, there is no real-life reason for the fear to be present in the sufferer.
When faced with the anxiety of the situation, some people will shut down and be very quiet while others will become very loud, outgoing and expressive. People with social anxiety disorder will take extreme measures to avoid or escape the triggering situations.
Additionally, they may utilize a list of negative coping skills like use of alcohol and other drugs excessively to reduce symptoms.
What is Shyness?
Because of the level of confusion between social anxiety disorder and shyness, the team behind the DSM added information related to shyness in the DSM-5. They call it normative shyness to distinguish it from social anxiety disorder.
It begins by stating that shyness “is a common personality trait and is not by itself pathological.” This alone is great news for anyone thinking that the world of mental health is trying to give everyone a diagnosis.
When you think of someone that is shy you may think of someone that is quiet or uncertain in new situations. They may seem awkward or uncomfortable when meeting new people. Many times people view shyness as associated with low self-esteem, but this is not always the case. Not everyone who is shy will have low self-esteem just as not everyone who is shy will have social anxiety disorder. In fact, reports state that only 12% of people that consider themselves shy will meet criteria for social anxiety disorder.
Similarities and Differences
The similarities between social anxiety and shyness are clear. Though they are not the same, there is a fair bit of overlap between the two. They both involve a change in thoughts, feelings and behaviors when confronted with a new social situation. People with shyness and people with social anxiety disorder will view social situations in a negative way and take some action to avoid when possible.
The differences may seem few, but they are important. A major difference between the two is how people with each view their condition. People who are shy commonly see this as part of their personality. They tend to be comfortable with their shyness and accept their state.
People with social anxiety usually are very frustrated with their condition. They hate their symptoms and how overwhelming they can be. People with social anxiety seek out positive and negative coping skills to lessen the influence while shy people adapt to life with shyness.