Solutions for Extreme Shyness
Are you ever shy? Shyness is actually very common.
Most people experience some degree of shyness from time to time in certain situations. In fact, only about 7% of people claim that they never feel shy. For the rest of us, shyness can range from being a minor inconvenience, to being a major problem.
Some people suffer from overwhelming shyness that is extreme. Such acute shyness is not only very painful to experience, but it can be devastating in its effects on a person’s social life, happiness, and career.
The degree of shyness can vary a lot from person to person, and even in the same person it can vary depending on the situation.
Some shy people are paralyzed with fear in small social gatherings, yet they may be able to speak in front of an audience of thousands of people. Some people are only shy the first few times they meet someone new.
Various psychological therapies have been used to treat extreme shyness, but most of them have limited success. The most successful approaches for treating shyness use some variation of cognitive therapy, or behavioral therapy, or both of these, combined with graduated and increasing exposure to the feared situation.
In cognitive therapy, the patient is taught to notice the thoughts he is thinking while he is in the feared situation. The client learns to challenge his thoughts to see if they fit reality. If these thoughts do not match the reality, the client is taught to substitute more realistic thoughts in their place.
Behavioral therapy aims to change the client’s behavior using a program of positive reinforcement of the desired behavior, and negative reinforcement of the undesired behavior.
Both cognitive therapy and behavior therapy focus on teaching the client to deal with situations and symptoms in the present. Neither form of therapy delves into situations in the client’s distant past. Those forms of psychotherapy that attempt to deal with shyness by delving into the client’s past history have not been shown to be effective.
In the past decade, researchers have discovered that some anti-depressant medications, particularly the so-called SSRI’s (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors), can also be very helpful in the treatment of extreme shyness.
One of these SSRI drugs, Paxil, was the first to receive American F.D.A. approval as an effective treatment for social anxiety. In fact, ads for Paxil as a treatment for social anxiety have been marketed directly to the public, not just to doctors.
Does drug treatment for shyness really work? Some very socially anxious people who have tried everything that regular psychotherapy has to offer, including cognitive therapy, still suffer from terrible shyness until they try SSRI drugs. In some cases, the improvement in their shyness symptoms happens very quickly. This class of drugs seems to help the socially anxious person turn down the excessive volume of their inner judgmental thoughts.
Does this mean you should consider taking a pill to make you more friendly? There are pros and cons to be considered when deciding whether or not to take a drug for social anxiety. The SSRI drugs can cause nervous agitation, insomnia, weight gain, and loss of interest in sexual activity.
SSRI drugs may have serious long term effects on the brain which are not known yet.
Some medical doctors and psychologists are concerned that we are using powerful medications to treat shyness, which is a common, normal human condition.
It can be very easy to find a doctor who will prescribe a pill for you to overcome your social anxiety. However, when you stop taking the drug, your shyness will probably reappear.
If you spend several months working with an experienced shyness therapist learning new ways of thinking and behaving when you are around other people, it is more likely that the improvements will last for the rest of your life.