Is this just shyness or Social Anxiety Disorder?

by Jessica
(United States)

My whole life I have been extreamly shy. Im 19 and have had hardly any friends. I just can’t talk to people. Even have a hard time with extended family. I have a cousin who is the same age as me and I have hardly spoken a word to him at family gatherings besides hi and goodbye in years. I can’t even talk on the phone to customer support or something with out getting anxious. When I have to I almost cry before. If im walking outside and see a group of people, im afraid they will all look at me so I walk the other way. When I do talk to someone I don’t look at their face. My major is in education to be a elementary teacher. For some reason the only people I can talk to and be myself around is small children. I have been babysitting for 4 years and can talk to the kids fine. I can’t talk to people my own age or older. At least I have that, but it would be nice to have some friends. When someone does rarely talk to me at school, deep down I wan’t to talk, but at the same time I wan’t them to leave me alone, because it’s uncomfortable and I don’t know what to say.

Ben's Answer:

"Social Anxiety Disorder" is a fancy name created so that drug companies can medicate you for an "illness." A large percentage of the population has always fallen into the category of "shy" or introverted, or highly sensitive. The labels given for these traits tend to make people feel more ashamed and feel like they don't fit in with the rest of society.

That being said, the fears that you have about talking to people are fears that can be decreased or eliminated with the right kinds of therapy. You may always be a quiet person, but you don't have to always live in a state of fear and longing for connection. The right therapist can help you overcome this. Don't lose hope!

Often, these fears form in early childhood, and often it is related to one or more traumatic events that have happened. A naturally quiet or sensitive person is much more vulnerable to certain traumas in which they may feel exposed, ridiculed, shamed or rejected socially and this trauma can cause life-long fears if not resolved. One of the best methods of resolving any past traumas - large or small -- is Meridian Tapping/EFT. You can learn to use this on your own, but would probably get the most out of starting with a therapist that uses it.

Take Care,
Ben Schwarcz, MFT

Santa Rosa Psychotherapist

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