Understanding Social Anxiety and Shyness
What is social anxiety?
Social anxiety is the fear, nervousness and apprehension that most of us experience at some time in our relationships with other people. It affects us when we think that we might do something that will be embarrassing or humiliating. It's important to understand that social anxiety is to some degree normal, and there isn't a 'cure' for it as such. But when it becomes a problem it can severely undermine our ability to interact with others. People who suffer from social anxiety tend to assume that others will notice their weaknesses or awkwardness and that they'll be dismissed, ignored, criticized or rejected for not behaving 'acceptably'. This can often lead to isolation and loneliness.
When it's especially severe, social anxiety may be diagnosed as 'social phobia'. This means that you have a persistent fear of situations where you are exposed to the scrutiny of others, you recognize that the fear is excessive, and you avoid the situations that cause the fear (or only endure them with extreme distress). However, there is no hard and fast distinction between being socially anxious and having a diagnosable social phobia. Studies suggest that between 3% and 13% of the population will, at some time in their lives, suffer from severe enough social anxiety to fit the criteria for social phobia.
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