Shyness can be a good thing. It is a protective mechanism that means people are cautious around strangers – at least until it is decided if that stranger is a friends or foe. In the past, being too accepting of strangers put humans in peril. Most people deal with feelings of shyness at some time or another, and it is not such a big deal. This feeling only really becomes a problem when it starts to interfere with a person’s life.
Some individuals are so shy that it prevents them from doing the things they want to do. This also means they feel lonely when they really want to spend time around other people. Many people who are addicted to alcohol or drugs also suffer from excessive shyness. This may have been what made the substance abuse so attractive in the beginning. When these individuals make it into recovery, they will need to deal with their shyness in order to be able to build a strong and successful sobriety.
Shyness refers to a situation where the individual feels uncomfortable around other people. It is a type of inhibition in interpersonal situations that interferes with the person’s ability to live their life as they would like. Some people experience shyness only to a limited degree and in relation to specific occasions. Other people may deal with shyness regularly so that it begins to negatively impact their life. The shy individual is not somebody who does not like to be around other people. They just feel unable to cope with such contact.
There are a variety of symptoms associated with shyness including:
* Unwillingness to look directly at people
* Feelings of inhibition
* Nervous behaviors such as touching parts of the body
* Unwillingness to talk
* Excessive smiling or body movements
* Speech problems like stuttering or rapid speech
* Butterflies in the stomach
* Negative thoughts about what other people think
* Low self-esteem
* Shaking or trembling
* Feeling anxious
* Making an effort to avoid people
* Speaking in a low voice
* Refusing to attend social occasions even when they sound like fun
* Standing alone at parties and other events
* Blushing easily
* Feeling embarrassed
* Experiencing tension in the muscles
* Dry mouth
* Trying too hard to please
People can experience shyness for many reasons including:
* Low self-esteem. This is where the individual does not value themselves very highly.
* If an individual has experienced some type of traumatic event in public it can make them nervous because they fear a reoccurrence.
* There may be genetic factors that predispose some individuals towards shyness.
* If something happens that interferes with a child’s normal development, then this can later lead to shyness.
* Some people grow up in an environment where they become shy in order to adapt. In this case shyness is a learnt behavior.
It is common to use the words shyness and introversion interchangeably, but they actually refer to different things. The person who is introverted will usually feel quite content to be on their own. This is when they are in their natural element. The individual who is shy does not want to be on their own, but they have difficulty communicating with other people. It makes them anxious. For the introverted person, being alone is a choice, but for the shy person it is something that they feel subjected to.
Some people suffer from such severe shyness that it can be labeled pathological. Social anxiety disorder is a type of phobia that people can develop around social contact. These are some of the symptoms of the disorder:
* Individuals with the condition are deeply concerned about what other people think of them. This makes them overly self-conscious of their behavior in an attempt to please others. This worry can self-consciousness can greatly impact the individual’s life.
* They will tend to review all interpersonal encounters in a negative light afterwards. They will feel bad about their performance. The individual may be bothered by an encounter for weeks afterwards.
* The individual’s self-consciousness will impact their behavior when communicating with other people. For example, if they worry about stuttering, the fact that they are so worried about it happening makes it more likely to occur.
* The individual can experience physical symptoms because of their anxiety including nausea, sweating, blushing, palpitations, shaking, weeping or even difficult breathing. Some of these symptoms will be experienced by anyone dealing with shyness, but will be more severe in the case of social anxiety disorder.
* People with social anxiety disorder will tend to go out of their way to avoid other people. This means that the individual will miss out on many fun and rewarding activities in life. Their social anxiety might also damage their career.
Many people turn to substance abuse because of their discomfort when dealing with social interactions. When they first start using alcohol or drugs, it makes them feel more confident and outgoing. These improvements are usually only short-lived. Once the individual has become addicted, their social isolation may worsen. It is believed that about 18 percent of people with social anxiety disorder are also substance abusers.
If people continue to battle with shyness in recovery it can be dangerous, because:
* The individual is unlikely to find real happiness if they feel prevented from doing the things they want to do. This will mean that life in recovery will not be satisfying and the individual will be tempted to return to alcohol and drug abuse.
* In order to build a strong recovery, the individual needs to make good use of the available resources. In order to do this, they will usually need to cooperate with other people. If they are too shy, this might prevent them from getting the help they need.
* Some of the most satisfying aspects of being sober involve engaging with the world. If people are too shy, they will miss out on this satisfaction.
* Shyness could prevent the individual from getting help when they are in the midst of a relapse.
* Those individuals who want to find romance in recovery will no longer have a chemical crutch to give them confidence. They will need to overcome their shyness if they hope to find a meaningful relationship with a soul mate.
These are some of the things that people can do in recovery to overcome their shyness:
* Learning mindfulness meditation can help people deal with uncomfortable feelings such as shyness. It works by encouraging the individual to live in the moment and not allow their thoughts to run wild. If the person finds that they are getting anxious in a social situation, they can mindfully take a step back and observe what is really going on in the mind. Sometimes just the mere act of observation can be enough to resolve the situation.
* Shyness and low self-esteem go hand in hand. Anything that helps the individual boost their self-esteem should also help them overcome their shyness.
* Helping other people is a wonderful way to overcome this negative feeling. The individual is too focused on helping the other person to be worried about their own shyness. This type of work also boosts self-esteem, because it makes people feel like they are doing something useful and meaningful.
* Those individuals who are dealing with social anxiety disorder may benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy. This treatment involves analyzing troublesome thoughts, feelings and behaviors as well as unlearning bad habits. Some people with social anxiety disorder can also benefit from antidepressant medication.
* People can learn simple relaxation techniques when they begin feeling the negative symptoms associated with shyness. Even something as simple as focusing on the breath can make a difference.
* Keeping a journal may be of benefit to people who are trying to conquer their shyness. This will allow them to monitor their progress. The act of writing can also allow them to come across insights that they otherwise might have missed. It is easier to join the dots when things are written down. The other benefit of keeping a journal is that it shows a commitment to achieving a goal, and this can increase motivation.
* Some individuals find that role-playing can help them deal better with uncomfortable situations. If they pretend to be in the situation and practice their responses, it makes it easier to deal with the real thing later on.
* Therapy sessions can be a good way for people to overcome their shyness. Once the individual finds a therapist they trust, it will be possible to explore the problem in greater detail and arrive at workable solutions.