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Is Shyness Fear or Anxiety?

Ruy Miranda
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Technically, Shyness is anxiety in social situations. In speaking of anxiety, one thinks about a medical condition, a disease. Is Shyness a disease?

Let us see first the difference between fear and anxiety.

*Fear. Characteristics:
– apprehension in view of a real, objective threat,
– involving risk of life or physical harm.

*Anxiety. Characteristics:
– discomfort, in which apprehension predominates, in view of a threat seen with the "eyes of the imagination,"
– involving a vague risk, with or without physical harm.

However, the word "fear" has been consecrated by use, whether to describe Shyness, or to describe a situation in which the person feels threatened despite the absence of a real threat. This occurs even in medical publications and I myself use it in this website.

Problem anxiety – Paradoxical as it may seem, medicine regards most anxieties as normal. To be a medical condition, anxiety has to meet certain criteria, such as:
*to occur most days in a period of at least 6 months;
*to show at least three of the following signs and symptoms: irritability, fatigue, restlessness, muscle tension, sleep disturbance, or trouble in concentrating.

The average individual has normal anxiety – It is regarded as normal that people feel threatened when there is actually no real danger, as long as this is occasional or in specific circumstances and provided that there is no significant harm done. Most shy people contribute to form this average standard. Between 40% and 50% of the world's population meet the diagnosis criteria for Shyness in its various types.

The vast majority of shy people are not regarded as sick nor bearers of anxiety disorder by medical criteria. The International Disease Classification, drawn up by the World Health Organization, only includes as disorders the more extreme cases of anxiety in social situations. Example: Social Phobia / Social Anxiety.

Shyness is a common occurrence linked to specific situations. Example: The person who is a bit tense, breathing out of synchrony, with his heart beating fast in certain situations, such as speaking in public. This is not out of the ordinary as long as these expressions of anxiety pass and do not harm speech or performance .

In the articles Self-concept / Self-actualization - Shyness Nucleus, Humiliation Stories, School Spankings: Examples of Shyness Causes, as in Questions and Answers on Shyness, and other angles of this topic are examined.

Anguish and Anxiety

Anguish - Anguish is not the same as anxiety. Anxiety is a situation of apprehension, anguish of pain. The best definition of anguish is a feeling of suffering due to unknown reasons.

The anguish process is similar to that of anxiety. The true causes of our anguish are almost always different from what we imagine them to be. Example: "I have applied for that job and am anguished about what their response is going to be." Is this statement right? No, it is wrong. The cause could lie in self-concept sentences, such as: "I cannot bear the uncertainty" "The other applicants are more prepared than I am" "Everything is more difficult for me than for other people."

This is why, as is the case with anxiety, causes of anguish are generally unknown. What we think is the cause is actually nothing more than the symptoms of aspects of the self-concept in certain situations.

Anxiety and anguish can be together or separate in the same person. Example: A person suffering from Social Phobia / Social Anxiety has many symptoms during the anxiety attacks and a certain anguish while living with the expectation of another attack. A shy person may harbor similar feelings as regards his / her Shyness.

May, 2004.

Updated: May, 2005

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This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles contained on this web site are not solicitations, are not medical advice and are not intended as medical advice. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles are intended to provide only general, non-specific medical information and are not intended to cover all the issues related to the topics discussed. This web site, the Social Anxiety Disorder and Shyness Directory and these articles do not create any physician-client relationship between Ruy Miranda and you, and they do not replace the eventual relationship between you and your physician, psychologist, or other healthcare professional. This article�s author recommends no particular medication and does not represent the interests of any person, company or pharmaceutical laboratory.

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You may want to read other articles on Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia and Shyness:

What Is Shyness? Fear, Anxiety, Anguish?

Questions and Answers on Shyness

Humiliation Stories, School Spankings: Examples of Shyness Causes

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Differential Diagnosis

Self-Concept/Self- Actualization – Shyness Nucleus 

Social Anxiety Disorder: What It Is, The Anxiety Attack Symptoms  

Social Anxiety Attacks: Incidence, Onset, History, Evolution

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder: Neurophysiological Approach 

Social Phobia / Anxiety Disorder: Treatment 

Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder:Medication Action 

Avoidant Personality Disorder 

Why Self-Help in Shyness and Social Anxiety Disorder / Social Phobia Doesn�t Help You 

Self-concept, Body Image, Self-depreciation and Shyness 

Medications in Social Phobia: Side Effects - Part 1

Antidepressants Tricyclics: Side Effects - Part 2  


Metabolic Pathways Individual Differences and Medications Side Effects - Part 3


Genetic Changes: Medications Side Effects - Part 4


First Line Antidepressants - Side Effects - Part 5


Social Anxiety Medication Information


Panic Disorder, Shyness, Social Phobia - Differences


Facial Blushing, Redness of the Face, Ears and Neck


Psychoses, Shyness and Social Phobia

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