On the occasion of her blog’s birthday, Nicola Morgan wrote a comment on my post. First, she sent me to heaven by praising the way I wrote about SA. Then she wrote:
“It’s interesting to think about how shy children … sometimes become gregarious /extrovert and sometimes don’t, and how shyness can sometimes become SA and sometimes not. I wonder what the triggers might be that would make the difference between the common shyness that comes from all sorts of natural fear reactions, and the one that then tips over into something hard to live with?”
My first reply to this is that the basic premise is wrong. Social anxiety doesn’t always grow from shyness and I’ve never been shy. But I wrote about that before, so I’ll get off my high horse now. The fact is that in most cases social anxiety does stem from shyness.
One reason for this is that both are fed by sensitivity. Anyone who isn’t sensitive isn’t likely to be afflicted by either of them. Also, children who are shy might get teased for being shy and this can exacerbate their shyness and cause them to refrain from participating in activities that could help them to open up.
My answer to Nicola is that it all depends on what happens to the child during childhood. While shyness is usually a trait that’s inherited, SA can come later or alternatively the shyness can vanish. If the child is born into a loving, warm and supportive family and goes on to be popular and make friends, any symptoms of shyness are likely to disappear. If the child is made to feel different or inferior and is shunned or worse by other children, self-confidence will leak out and SA could take its place.
Not all sufferers of SA were bullied, although many were. But most went through things that lowered their self-esteem. This in turn caused them to abstain, voluntarily or forcibly, from parties and other social activities so that they didn’t know how to behave at such activities. The resulting embarrassment lowered their self-esteem even more. It can be a never-ending spiral that doesn’t stop at the SA barrier.