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How is Social Anxiety different from Shyness?

Although there is no clinical diagnosis of shyness, in some ways shyness is easier to understand that social anxiety because it is so common. About 80 per cent of people say that they experienced periods of considerable shyness in childhood and adolescence. It's important to remember that when we are very young shyness is the norm rather than the exception and that in the process of growing up it generally fades.

Those suffering from shyness often feel like they're shrinking back from social encounters, and retreating into themselves, and so the main symptoms are very similar to those of social anxiety. People experience different degrees of shyness, from mild social awkwardness to extreme withdrawal and feelings of inhibition.

Ironically, shyness is actually an attractive quality to many people. It can make you seem more interesting, and slightly mysterious, as though you have hidden qualities to be discovered. It's closely associated with modesty. So there is nothing inherently wrong with shyness - and having too little shyness in your makeup may be just as bad as having too much.

Shyness and social anxiety are close relatives, and there is a lot of overlap in their symptoms and in their effects. So, from here onwards the term social anxiety is used to mean both social anxiety and shyness.