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What's the difference between social anxiety and being shy?

30 Answers
Last Updated: 12/21/2021 at 6:47pm
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Tara Davis, Doctorate in Counselling Psychology


I have worked successfully with a wide range of difficulties. Nothing is more important than developing a warm, compassionate relationship with someone you can trust

Top Rated Answers
January 12th, 2015 10:51am
Social anxiety prevents you from attending social gatherings at all, or having panic attacks at the thought of talking to others. Shyness is totally normal. Some people are naturally less talkative, more reflective, and very happy to be so.
November 10th, 2015 6:22am
Social anxiety is where u have a fear of social situations or avoid them completely signs may be: making plans then cancelling them, fear of being judged by others, a misconception of what others think of you, panic attacks whereas being shy is that u are fine once u get comfortable with people. Social anxiety is different you could still feel anxious around those you have known for years
February 15th, 2016 4:22am
Social Anxiety causes difficulty breathing, sweaty palms, dialated pupils, racing heart, and panic. Shyness is more of just being quiet, or not so great at making conversation. So basically, Social Anxiety is just more severe.
April 26th, 2016 10:08am
Social anxiety is feeling like everyone is watching you and constantly judging, but only feeling this paranoid in a social setting and almost feeling sick because of it or almost like being claustrophobic. While being shy is not really wanting to speak or just not having the courage to do so.
April 18th, 2017 2:43pm
I think that being shy is when you're unable to talk to people because you don't really feel comfortable expressing yourself. Social anxiety, however, is when you're unable to communicate with others for fear of judgement.
February 18th, 2015 12:14am
Social anxiety feels debilitating, it impedes on your "normal" life functions and starts to dictate what you do. i.e. never going out with friends because you feel so much anxiety. Being shy is less intense and a feeling that typically passes once you get comfortable.
May 5th, 2015 6:08am
Social anxiety is the fight or flight reflex, and being shy is being reserved and passive. Anxiety is feeling unsafe and is a physiological reaction as well as bio-chemically.
May 31st, 2015 4:06am
To me social anxiety is when you are so afraid of being in the social situation you actually feel sick and nauseous and being shy means you just are nervous meeting new people.
June 10th, 2015 8:07am
Being shy is a natural part of being a human being. Social anxiety is having emotional breakdowns when faced with uncomfortable situations
July 7th, 2015 5:09pm
Feeling shy is completely normal and almost everyone feels it in their life. It's like when you don't want to get up and present a project in class and your legs get wobbly. Social anxiety is feeling constantly anxious around people. Stammering, stuttering, feeling sweaty and dizzy are all symptoms that you may experience if you have it.
July 21st, 2015 12:25am
Being shy is much less severe. With social anxiety it's the actual feeling like your going to break down in the middle of a store because someone talks to you. Being shy is hiding behind somebody because your'e a little scared to speak. It's a huge difference.
August 17th, 2015 6:11pm
Being shy is simply not wanting to or being scared of talking to people. Social anxiety is not wanting to or being scared of being judged or rejected by the people you are trying to connect with. It is a more intense feeling to have social anxiety. Some of the signs are that when faced with an uncomfortable social situation one will sweat, blush, or become flustered and possibly shaky.
September 7th, 2015 2:52am
Everyone is different, there is not a one answer fits all. Perhaps evaluating your feelings when they happen can give you a better idea. Or making a list of how you feel in certain situations. If you feel that being social or being around others interferes with certain activities in your life, perhaps speaking with a counselor or therapist can help you to sort that out.
September 9th, 2015 1:53am
Social anxiety and social shyness can stem from the same source. When faced with the intensity that relationship brings, we can feel unsafe. Fear can arise in the body and it appears as anxiety, excitement or even frozenness. However it manifests, the root is always the same: self consciousness and self reflection in relationship with another person.
November 2nd, 2015 3:51am
Anxiety is when it physically and/or emotionally pains you to be around others or to be social. Being shy can be tough, and emotionally draining, but social anxiety is a very different type of shy.
November 9th, 2015 2:21am
This is an awesome question! I am wondering about this too unfortunately I honesty can't answer this to my full potential
December 15th, 2015 5:28am
Social anxiety is often more crippling then being shy. Being shy is difficult and can cause a lot of discomfort, but social anxiety is more prone to cause severe panic attacks and often times requires therapy
January 19th, 2016 1:26am
Social anxiety is like shy on steroids. Social anxiety makes you never want to leave home, talk to anyone, or have even the tiniest glimpse at a social interaction. Shyness is just feeling a tad bit awkward and quiet when you meet someone. Shyness is much easier to over come than acute social anxiety.
January 19th, 2016 4:38pm
There is not a difference. But you are probably asking about a disorder. And a disorder it becomes: when distress you feel significantly interferes with your day to day life. So then there is a difference. It cannot be objectively measured though, as is the case with many mental disorders and illnesses, your diagnosis is a matter of questionnaire for the most part. Shyness is a personality trait, social anxiety is something everybody feels from time to time (giving a speech, having a date etc..) and social anxiety disorder is when your social anxiety goes over the top and lowers your quality of life, makes you avoid things.
November 20th, 2017 8:50pm
Being shy is something most people get during school and a young age, anxiety is something not everyone gets but when they do they struggle to handle it, it has an impact on everything they do wether that's school, work or relationships
November 27th, 2017 5:30am
Social anxiety might be considered a fear of social situations more than a preference. Many individuals experience shyness in situations in which they are unfamiliar. Social anxiety might be described as a more intensified shyness when an individual has more complicated emotions attached to unfamiliar social situations. Some of those emotions might be so strong as to affect a persons daily functioning and interaction with others for long periods of time. Just an observation.
November 29th, 2017 6:06pm
Being shy is when you will talk to others but you're not super out going or will not go out of your way to talk to someone. Social anxiety Is when the thought of being in a group or talking to someone makes you want to cry. In the situation you breathe heavily, heart races, you shake. There can be other symptoms that depend on the person.
February 13th, 2018 3:53am
One is a disorder and one is just a personality type. There’s also a big difference in severity. Being shy can mean discomfort in social settings, but with an anxiety disorder, they can be almost crippling.
March 19th, 2018 12:18pm
The physical manifestation is one sign that what you sense is more than just being a bit shy. If you are not sure consult a professional.
May 28th, 2018 12:26am
For me, having social anxiety means living in a dark place full of people that you don't know and you can't even breathe right. It means waisting your day thinking about tomorrow. It means getting thru the day without one single panic attack. Being shy is none of this. Being shy is someone who just needs a little time to get used to it. Social anxiety takes your all life away.
May 29th, 2018 4:54pm
Social anxiety is extreme nervousness and fidgeting during social interactions. Being shy is something minor and mere hesitance that can be dealt with once the person gets used to society, while social anxiety is full on, intense and happens frequently to the person
June 11th, 2018 2:45am
Sometimes negative thoughts come along with social anxiety and shyness is just not wanting to be social. Social anxiety generally has negative thoughts associated with it as opposed to shyness when people are generally just not willing to be social.
April 28th, 2020 8:34pm
Based on my experience, I'd say it's based on the level to which it's affecting your life. If you feel it's getting in the way of you living the life you want to, then it may be social anxiety. Being shy can be a personality trait, but it's also something that can be worked with. At the end of the day, it's really for you to decide or for a therapist to diagnose. If you feel that in social situations you are getting physical symptoms such as a racing heartbeat and heavy breathing, then it may more likely be social anxiety. It's important to remember that neither of these are a reflection on you as a person.
November 3rd, 2020 10:04pm
Many people are a little bit shy. If you're shy, you might be somewhat uncomfortable in situations such as going to a party where you don't know anyone, but you do it. You give yourself a push, you go to the party, after a while you relax and talk to people, whereas somebody who has social anxiety at the prospect of the same party, would be overwhelmed by such anxiety that he or she would have a physical reaction perhaps nausea, sweating, heart racing, dizziness and would avoid it if at all possible.
December 21st, 2021 6:47pm
Being shy generally shouldn't be described as a personality trait. It's a state of being in that current moment, a very human feeling that everyone gets to feel. Some less often, some more. Social anxiety however is a bubble around you and society. The brain gets rewired throughout the years to create that said bubble. Only the person struggling with it, can see the bubble. So there's always a battle between the rational and irrational mind in them. It's hard to stay grounded and present struggling with it every day. Being shy is situational, a normal feeling that occurs. Just the same as anger or sadness. There is a big difference, it has little correlation with social anxiety. To live comfortably, to function and get things done in the outside world- we need treatment for it.