Social anxiety disorder: Not just extreme shyness

Do you dislike being the life of a party?

Would you rather not make a speech in front of a hundred people?


You’re not alone. There are many people like you who feel inhibited, reticent, and/or anxious in social situations. That just makes you shy — and normal.

But there is a mental health disorder that affects around 10 million Americans which shares some characteristics with shyness, but is frequently misunderstood causing sufferers to remain untreated. It’s called social disorder anxiety (SAD).

Myths about social anxiety disorder

It is not true that only shy people go on to develop social anxiety disorder. It is also not true that SAD sufferers always isolate themselves or are incapable of being social.

Myths about SAD

Extroverts may long to be the center of attention, but their condition prevents them from doing so. Once treated, they find that they enjoy interpersonal and social situations immensely.

SAD is not just shyness taken to the extreme. While the boundaries of both do meet, they are quite different things.

Social anxiety disorder vs. Shyness

While shyness is a normal part of one’s personality, SAD is not normal. Shy people prefer not to be in new and unfamiliar situations, but once they warm up to it they find that they can tolerate it.

Whereas, people with SAD simply cannot tolerate any social or interpersonal situation. So much so that they avoid all such situations. If such a circumstance is forced upon them, they suffer from physical reactions such as a racing heart, sweating, dizziness, nausea, stomach ache, hyperventilation, and headache. Ultimately, it may cause a panic attack.

SAD vs. shyness

SAD sufferers are afraid of being judged, criticized, or rejected in circumstances where they have to perform. What is interesting is that a person with SAD may be quite competent socially until he or she perceives that he or she has to “perform” in some way.

Result of social anxiety disorder

Adults find that their work life and their family life are severely impaired. Because they lack self-confidence, people with SAD are unable to assert themselves. Thus, they are at risk for developing other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse.


Children with SAD cannot focus on academics, making friends, or developing hobbies.

Do you think you could be suffering from social anxiety disorder? Want to talk about it anonymously and for free? Ask our experts at AskMile!

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