Am I Shy or Do I Suffer From a Social Anxiety Disorder?

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Are you the type of person who gets nervous in social situations? If so, you might have heard from a friend or found information on a medical website that indicates you could be suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD).

The truth is, while social anxiety disorder is a potentiality, there is a common alternative label that can be used to describe individuals who tend to get nervous or feel self-conscious: shy. Shyness and social anxiety, while similar in symptoms, are actually two completely different things with varied levels of severity. So, before jumping to any conclusions, it is essential to break down the differences.

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What does it mean to be shy?

People with shyness and people with SAD have a lot in common. However, while people who are shy tend to feel awkward, worried or tense in social situations with unfamiliar people, those with SAD actually experience negative feelings and emotional reactions.

Social anxiety is a common feeling that millions of people feel each and every day – but at varied levels of intensity. At different levels, individuals who exude more severe levels of shyness could demonstrate physical symptoms as well, but shyness is not always precursor to SAD.

People who demonstrate physical symptoms including blushing, sweating, racing heartbeat, upset stomach, negative self-talk, worries about others’ opinions, and a tendency to withdraw from social interactions are more likely suffering from SAD. Most Americans express shyness at some point in their life but many people never suffer through the more severe level of shyness, and reach social anxiety disorder.


What does it mean to have social anxiety disorder?

If you have suffered through uncomfortable bouts of shyness during social interactions, you’re not alone. Millions of Americans experience being shy however, if you feel intense, persistent fear of being watched and judged by others, you may suffer from SAD. The growing fear, and physical symptoms can affect your work, school, and other day-to-day activities. It can even make it hard to make and keep friends.

SAD is not the same as shyness. Sufferers experience extreme feelings of embarrassment in performance-based situations, to the point at which they experience severe distress in social situations. They exhibit physical symptoms, and ultra-high levels of anxiety and fear causing avoidance of even their favorite activities.

To discover if someone in your life is suffering from social anxiety disorder, take a glance at this symptoms checklist:

Common symptoms of SAD:

  • Blushing, sweating, trembling, rapid heart rate, or feeling of their mind going “blank”
  • Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
  • Staying away from places where there are other people
  • Showing a rigid body posture, avoiding eye contact, or speaking with an overly-soft voice
  • Fear of being with other people, especially those they don’t already know of their SAD
  • Trouble speaking to others but wishing they could
  • Intense fear of judgment by others
  • Feelings of self-consciousness in front of other people
  • Intense feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness

Do I have a social anxiety disorder?

There is a big difference between shyness and someone who is suffering from social anxiety disorder, SAD. While people who experience shyness feel the fear of socializing as a spontaneous emotion, those who suffer from social anxiety disorder notice life-alternating feelings and mental changes for more than six months.

Getting help

We live in a fast-paced world filled with to-do lists, demands and constant stressors. And it can be difficult to know if you suffer from common shyness or if you have SAD. No matter what the level of your symptoms, there are treatment options including cognitive behavioral therapy, online support groups, medications, herbal therapy, nutritional changes, and more! Talk to your doctor today, to discuss your treatment options.


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