During early childhood, we parents would closely observe our kids to monitor their growth and development.  It is also during this stage that we learn about our children’s personalities.  Some are friendly and highly sociable while others turn out to be shy and need some coaxing before interacting with other kids.  As our children grow, they become more confident of themselves and overcome shyness, some would continue to be self-conscious in certain social situations but are able to socialize.  Unfortunately, some shy kids have difficulties in coping with shyness that it manifests physically in their bodies and prevents them from performing functions properly.  This is a condition known as Social Anxiety Disorder or Social Phobia.  It is characterized by overwhelming anxiousness and extreme self-consciousness in everyday social situations.

People with social phobia have an intense, persistent, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of doing things that will embarrass them.  This fear causes them to worry for days or weeks before a dreaded situation. The fear can be so intense that it interferes with their ordinary activities and makes it hard to form and nurture relationships with others.

Social Phobia can be limited to certain situations only. The most common is talking in front of groups, or doing regular things like eating or drinking in public or in front of others. It may also be broad or generalized that the person experiences anxiety around almost anyone other than the family.  The anxiety is often accompanied by blushing, profuse, sweating, trembling, nausea and difficulty talking.

According to the Social Anxiety Institute website the most common triggers of anxiety are the following situations:

  • Being introduced to other people
  • Being teased or criticized
  • Being the center of attention
  • Being watched while doing something
  • Meeting people in authority (“important people”)
  • Most social encounters, especially with strangers
  • Going around the room (or table) in a circle and having to say something
  • Interpersonal relationships, whether friendships or romantic relationships

Some people may not realize that their shyness is not a personality trait but a disorder.  And yes we can all overcome shyness
however extreme it is.  Research and clinical studies show that cognitive-behavioral therapy can treat Social Anxiety Disorder. To find out which therapy applies to your situation, you may consult your psychotherapist or get additional therapy information on Social Anxiety Institute and National Institute of Mental Health websites.