Overcoming Shyness and Social Anxiety: There is Hope

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Reader’s Question

Is it normal to always feel uncomfortable around people, even people you’ve been around before? How about feeling uncomfortable even talking to your own mother or sister?

Whenever I’m at family gatherings, I avoid people because I am extremely shy. I don’t like talking. If people try to make conversation with me, I simply reply with a short answer and try to get out of the situation. I feel like I can’t relax when others are around, even if they’re my own family.

What can I do about this? Do you think I should see a shrink? If so, how can they help me get better?

Psychologist’s Reply

Shyness and social anxiety or discomfort are not exactly the same thing but often go hand in hand. And both can make it painful to try and relate to others in a normal fashion. Shyness appears to be a relatively innate trait that can make it difficult to feel comfortable relating to others, even those with whom a person is very familiar.

Both shyness and social anxiety can accompany other conditions that impair a person’s ability to relate comfortably to others. The good news is that there is hope, and there are several effective treatments available. Sometimes medications are used to help control symptoms. Other times, other therapies are employed, especially cognitive-behavioral strategies. Often, a combination of therapies is recommended. But help is certainly available. So, it’s a good idea to visit with a mental health professional who specializes in the assessment and treatment of such things, especially a practitioner who can also assess the possible presence of other conditions that sometimes accompany and/or exacerbate the problems you have with social discomfort.

Some people never entirely lose their tendencies toward social discomfort. But with time and appropriate training, symptoms can be relieved, sometimes to point that they are not noticeable and often to the point where you can function much more normally in social situations. So, don’t hesitate to seek the professional assistance you need.

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