Introvert, shyness or social phobia - where are the limits?

When looks from other people cause fear

People are very different in how open they treat their fellow human beings. While some people peddle their life stories right away, you have to pull every word out of others. What is the difference between being shy and introverted and when is there a social phobia? Psychiatrists clarify.

It's more than just shyness or introvert. Those who are social phobics are afraid of everyday situations. The disease should be taken seriously - how is it treated?

Social phobics are often confronted with prejudices

"Pull yourself together! That's nothing! ”Many patients hear such and similar sayings from Prof. Peter Zwanzger - before they seek psychotherapeutic advice from him about their social phobia. "That's why I always give my patients courage in the initial consultation," explains the chief physician of general psychiatry and psychosomatic medicine at the kbo-Inn-Salzach Clinic in Wasserburg am Inn.

Strong fear of negative ratings

The other, not taking the victim's problem seriously or downplaying it, may also be because they mistake behavior for shyness or introvertedness. But the social phobia clearly distinguishes itself from it. "Because social phobia is characterized by a strong fear of being negatively assessed or criticized by other people," says Dietrich Munz, President of the Federal Chamber of Psychotherapists.

Introvertedness is a characteristic - shyness is learned

Such people are mostly self-contained and reluctant towards others - but not because they are afraid. "Shy people, on the other hand, are also afraid of interpersonal, especially unfamiliar contacts," explains Munz. "This behavior is learned and can be forgotten through training."

Shyness can turn into social phobia. "With social phobia, the fear is so strong that social meetings such as eating with friends cause immense fear and are therefore sometimes avoided," Munz continues.

When the fear spreads

There are two forms of social phobia: generalized and isolated. One example of the latter is the isolated fear of speaking. "Here we differentiate whether a person" only "has difficulty speaking in front of others or whether the fear gradually extends to several areas of life," says Peter Zwanzger, who also chairs the Society for Anxiety Research. Then those affected might be afraid of knocking over a glass in a restaurant. Or that the boss asks them a question they can't answer.

When you get scared of fear

This can also have a self-reinforcing effect. “Then it is extremely embarrassing and uncomfortable for the patient to tremble or blush again. Just thinking about it can trigger a panic attack, and fear of fear arises. A real vicious cycle begins, ”explains Dietrich Munz.

Because social phobias can rarely be managed on their own and they can lead to depression and addiction, it is important to see a psychotherapist or doctor in good time, Munz emphasizes: “As with other mental illnesses, treatment is advisable when the fear is so great and occurs so often that normal everyday life is no longer possible. "

Different approaches to therapy

From the point of view of Peter Zwanzger, cognitive behavioral therapy shows the best chances of success for anxiety disorders. This also includes confrontation therapy: "Step by step, the patient is mentally and then really introduced to the dreaded or avoided situations," says Zwanzger. Something is often re-enacted, so that after five to 20 sessions the fears become less and eventually dry up, as he explains.

Dietrich Munz, on the other hand, recommends that in the case of social phobias, therapeutic support should be used to go straight into the anxiety-causing situations: "This helps the patient to first understand the fear better and then to face the anxiety-causing situations step by step," he explains. "They can experience that terrible fears like" Everyone will notice that I'm turning bright red. " or "I will be laughed at during my lecture." are mostly unfounded. "

In psychodynamic psychotherapy, attempts are then made to recognize and resolve the conflicts on which the fears are based, explains Munz. "For example, a long-ago feeling that the parents' excessive demands are not being met can have been transferred to other situations." (Vb; source: dpa / tmn)

Author and source information

Video: What is social anxiety disorder? (January 2022).