Shyness and Social Phobia

If you suffer from shyness, console yourself with the knowledge that you are not alone. In fact shyness is an insidious personal problem that is shared by millions! It occurs in over 48% of the population, becoming disabling in 13% or more. Feelings of depression, generalized anxiety, social avoidance, interpersonal sensitivity and shame may also be experienced by shy individuals.

Shyness has been defined in a bewildering variety of ways, ranging from a focus on emotional reactions, to attitudes and specific behaviours. There are many possible causes for shyness, it may be inherited, related to family atmosphere and type of parenting, or arise from traumatic experiences and early illness. Whatever the cause, there is little doubt that the problem is complex and requires treatment.

Current research is very promising and a variety of different treatments involving either cognitive, behavioural, group work or pharmacological approaches, individually or in combination have proven to be successful.

In my work I see clients on an individual basis initially, and we explore the origin of their shyness as this sheds light on the type of treatment which would be most helpful. Assuming there are no serious medical problems which would impede progress, an individual treatment plan is made up consisting of a combination of cognitive and behavioural approaches. Four areas are addressed; the emotional, the physical, the behavioural and the cognitive (thinking processes). The latter works on numerous irrational beliefs regarding others’ perceptions of self, negative self-evaluations, low self-esteem and a heightened preoccupation with self. The emotional component deals with feelings of fear, anxiety, inferiority and inadequacy. The physiological component reduces sweating, blushing, increased heart rate and blood pressure. The behavioral component helps improve poorly developed social skills and works on the clients’ unwillingness to participate in social events.

One-on-one counselling continues until the client feels ready to participate in a shyness group where socializing with others who share similar problems is extremely beneficial. Some clients prefer not to move into a group setting at all, it is too threatening for them and this is a personal choice entirely up to the individual. Others do not come for individual counselling, but instead move straight into the groups. From my experience, a combination of the two approaches is best, and time in individual counselling will vary depending upon the intensity of the problem and current needs.

Man is a social animal and that is why shyness and social phobia are so crippling to so many people. We are not meant to live in isolation, or to suffer the loneliness and misery that shyness so often causes. Good interpersonal relationships, as well as feelings of relatedness and belonging, have long been considered essential to good mental health. Effective treatments do exist and change is possible.

contact Louise for further information