What Is Shyness?
a feeling of fear or discomfort caused by other people, especially in new
situations or among strangers. Shyness is an unpleasant feeling of self-consciousness—a
fear of what other people are thinking. This fear can inhibit a person's ability
to do or say what he wants. It can also prevent the formation of healthy
is often linked to low self-esteem. In its extreme form, it is considered
Types of Shyness
can vary in strength. Many people feel mild feelings of discomfort that are
easily overcome. Others feel extreme fear of social situations, and this fear
can be debilitating. Inhibition, withdrawal from social activities, anxiety,
and depression can result from shyness.
encompasses a broad spectrum of behaviors. It is normal for children to
sometimes feel shy in new situations. Perceptions of shyness are also cultural.
Some cultures (such as the United States) tend to regard it negatively; others,
such as some Asian cultures, tend to regard shyness more positively.
What Are the Causes of
15 percent of infants are born with a tendency toward shyness (Rubin,
et al., 2010). Research
has shown biological differences in the brains of shy people. But a propensity
for shyness also is influenced by social experiences. It is believed that most shy
children develop shyness because of interactions with parents (Rubin,
et al., 2010).
who are authoritarian or overprotective can cause their children to be shy.
Children who are not allowed to experience things may have trouble developing
social skills. A warm, caring approach to rearing children usually results in
them being more comfortable around others.
neighborhoods, communities, and culture all shape a child. Connections a child
makes within these networks contribute to his or her development. Children with
shy parents may emulate that behavior.
adults, highly critical work environments and public humiliation can lead to
What Are the Symptoms of
Not all children who play alone
happily are shy. Fear and anxiety are elements of shyness.
of the first signs that a child’s shyness might be a cause for concern is the
child’s never wanting to leave a parent's side.
Children who do poorly in their
studies or who have a difficult time making friends should be evaluated for
shyness. Children who have been victimized by bullying are at risk for
children who are constantly ridiculed may exhibit aggressive behavior, as an overcompensation
for shyness. Neglected children who are unable to care for themselves are at
risk as well.
How Is Shyness Diagnosed?
shy children do not get diagnosed and treated. Unlike many other emotional
disorders, shyness often does not result in a child causing problems. Frequently,
there are no tantrums or aggressive behavior to raise red flags and encourage
is a condition of extreme shyness—is the most common form of mental illness in
children and adolescents (American Psychological Association,
Therapists can assess a child for
shyness by engaging him or her in activities such as charades and board games.
They may also use puppets and dolls to get the child to open up.
How Is Shyness Treated?
extreme shyness is essential for the development of healthy-self-esteem. Shyness
can result in difficulties at school and difficulties forming relationships.
shy children outgrow shyness, but one in three become more troubled (Jaret, P., 2005).
can help children cope with shyness. They can be taught social skills, how to
be aware of their shyness, and ways to understand when their shyness is the
result of irrational thinking.
techniques such as deep breathing can help children and adults cope with
therapy can be helpful in children and adults suffering from shyness. If an
adult's shyness becomes so severe he avoids tending to his responsibilities, he
should seek help (American Psychological
rare instances, medication can provide temporary relief for shyness.
and guardians can prevent children from becoming shy by helping them develop
- coping with change
- managing anger
- using humor
- showing compassion
- being assertive
- being kind
- helping others
- keeping secrets
of these abilities can help children to be at ease among their peers (American Academy of