What Causes Shyness (is it a Mental Illness?)

Sometimes in order to treat or overcome a problem it helps to understand what the root cause is in the first place. So what causes shyness?

Firstly in the past we’ve already looked at why are people shy and the reasons people become shy in the first place. The short version is sometimes people have¬†predisposition to shyness but usually shyness is a learned trait. It can come on at any time in life and can affect pretty much anyone. But we’re not looking at the original cause or characteristics of shy people again.

Instead we want to look at a change in an American guideline a few years ago.

Shyness – as a mental illness.

Under a blank change which was looking at things like internet, gaming and gambling addiction as a mental illness somehow we’ve found ourselves giving shyness an actual¬†psychiatric diagnosis which could be downright dangerous. I’m the first to say people should be seeking help but handing them a pill bottle and telling them there’s something wrong with them isn’t the way forward.

In order to really learn how to overcome shyness we need to look at not only the root cause but also what happens in each specific case to cause people to feel shy. In each social encounter something is the trigger which is causing you to feel shy.

Situations Cause Shyness

The best way to look at it is that you’re not a shy person. You’re shy in certain situations.

what causes shynessThink about that for a moment. I’m not saying that you need to tell yourself a hundred times in the mirror that you’re not shy (I’ve already ranted before how useless shyness quotes and affirmations are) I’m saying you need to look at each situation differently.

If you’re in private with close family like your parents, are you shy? Reality is probably not. In a few extreme cases maybe and even then you’re not going to be as shy as you would with complete strangers. Even with extreme shyness in adults there’s really a point where you feel shy with absolutely everyone.

So what we’re going to look at here is what causes shyness in each social situation.

There might be points where you’re feeling perfectly comfortable in a social situation until you seem to fall out of that comfortable bubble and start to become anxious. In some causes you might start being shy the moment you meet someone’s eyes.

If you’re finding yourself comfortable in some situations and “falling out” of it then that’s a good thing. It’s one of the things we cover on the shyness training to get to that stage and keep it lasting longer and longer. But just now we’re looking at why this triggers in the first place.

The easiest way to look at this is the social pyramid. Again it’s something we cover properly in the training and coaching but the basic idea is that we all have a subconscious social hierarchy. Even the least judgemental of us have a subconscious opinion of how they rank against others.

We might measure this differently. And the qualities we measure might change even moments apart but we judge ourselves compared to how tall, rich, good looking, loud, outgoing, successful, popular or goodness knows what. We don’t know we’re doing it but it’s deep within us to constantly judge ourselves against other people.

For some they subconsciously do this but it affects them less. I might think someone is more successful or popular than me but I won’t let it affect how I act around them it becomes merely something my subconscious is aware of and I haven’t given it a thought.

For others it can become debilitating.

Sweating, mumbling, problems keeping eye contact and a general urge to just run the heck away from any social encounter is the usual signs that your caveman brain doesn’t want you to be there. Anxiety disorders, whether you want to call it shyness, diffidence or full on social anxiety is really just your brain freaking out because it thinks you’re in danger. And it thinks you’re in danger because it thinks there’s someone bigger and more important around.

In reality this doesn’t matter. Nobody is going to attack you because they have more hair than you do. Or because their car is bigger. But it’s an interesting mix here between how we judge ourselves against others (and how we think we should, even if we don’t know we do) in a modern society and your antiquated brain doing what it no longer needs to do. At the time it seems like the biggest thing in the world and you can’t cope with it. It’s your brain basically trying to get you away. Get you to safety.

The fact that there isn’t actually any real danger doesn’t occur to it. Even if you understand what I’m telling you now it’s not going to change anything. Your brain is going to keep on doing what it’s doing because it thinks that it’s keeping you alive. Really it’s ruining your life (maybe more than you know). Logic and reason don’t apply here so even though you know what’s going on that’s usually not enough to stop it. Neither is the usual answer which is tell yourself some nonsense in the window each morning or (possibly worse) completely ignore the problem.

I’m going with the assumption you have some common sense here. If you want to know what causes shyness then I have to assume that you (or someone you know) is having a problem with it. The best answer for that is systematic training which will coach this outdated part of your brain to calm the hell down and let you actually enjoy social encounters. From there it’s all up hill. Take it from someone who’s been exactly there. Shyness and social anxiety can kick in at anytime. For me it was when I was in university but we also look at anxiety in children and teenagers.

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