Shyness or social anxiety? There is a difference between the two

Shyness, according to research, may not always be an indication of social anxiety / Illustration by Emma Gadbery, Times-News correspondent

Commentary by Elizabeth Harp
Times-News correspondent

   There are many teens who will go to extremes because of their fear of being judged by others.
“I think it (social anxiety) more than likely sets off when the person is wondering where they fit in, or how do I fit in,” said Kaye Langer, school psychologist at Clover Garden School.
The Social Anxiety Institute described social anxiety as “the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.”
Researchers from the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health examined shyness and social phobia rates among more than 10,000 teens aged 13 to 18 who took part in a national survey in October, 2011.
“About half of the teens said they were shy, but only 12 percent of the shy teens met the criteria for social phobia in their lifetime. The study also found that about 5 percent of teens who said they weren’t shy met criteria for social phobia,” according to information from USA Today. “The findings indicate that the presence of social phobia may be independent of shyness in some cases, the researchers said. The two are not necessarily directly related.”
Self-consciousness, dread or worry about upcoming events, hypersensitivity to criticism and feeling alienated are just a few of the symptoms of social anxiety, according to the Social Anxiety Institute.
So when you’re faced with a difficult situation, how do you deal with it?
Who taught you what to do in hard times?
Did you learn by watching others or did you learn by making a lot of mistakes along the way?
Can social anxiety follow the child into adulthood?
“If they can figure out some strategies to make it work for them so they can get over it then it can go away; but if they don’t, if it continues to get worse and worse, then they develop a real problem where they start shying away from people and they want to be more isolated so that can happen as well,” Langer said.

 Elizabeth Harp is a junior at Clover Garden School and a Teens & Twenties writer.


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