By dictionary, shyness means ‘nervous and uncomfortable about meeting and speaking to people’. Shyness is the difficulty to deal with or being worried and afraid that something unpleasant may happen which some people feel when approaching or being approached by other people. It’s seen that shy people often desperately want to connect with others, but don’t know how or can’t tolerate the anxiety that comes with human interaction. On the other hand, introverts feel energised by the time alone.
Shyness is also called diffidence.
Basic causes of why we get shy
- Shyness may come from genetic traits or can be a personal personality trait.
- It can be entrenched by the environment in which a person is raised.
- It can be based on personal experience while going through stages of development in children.
Degrees of shyness
- The reculse
People under this category do not have any outside interest. These people may experience extreme unease even while interacting with relatives, other his parents or siblings. Fear and resignation are the key words here.
- The shy pessimist
People under this category have friends but they are few in number. If male, he has basically resigned himself to the misery of having continuously poor track record with women. The shy pessimist usually has difficulty talking to most woman, even those he is not romantically interested in.
- The shy optimist
Being the most open minded and likely to seek solutions, the shy optimist is very keen to improve his situation and has the greatest chance of success.
The stronger degree of shyness is social anxiety or social phobia.
Primary characteristics are largely ego driven fear of what others will think of a person’s behaviour which results in the person becoming scared of doing or saying what he or she wants to, out of fear of negative reactions, criticism or rejections, and simply opting to avoid social situations instead.
(In China, a shy student or peer is looked up to and praised. While in North America shy people are seen as cowards.)
- Initial cause of shyness vary from person to person.
- Scientists believe that they have located genetic data supporting the hypothesis that shyness is at least partially genetic.
- There is also evidence that suggests the environment in which a person is raised can also be responsible for shyness. This may be a result of child abuse or emotional abuse such as ridicule.
- Shyness may originate when a person has experienced a physical anxiety (displeasing feeling of fear and concern) reaction.
- Otherwise it has also been seen, that shyness is the reason behind anxiety reactions.
Scientific causes of shyness
Genetics and hereditary
Shyness is seen as hindrance on people and their development. Shyness can be a result of excess of cortisol (cortisol is known as hydrocortisone. It is a steroid hormone, more specifically a glucocorticoid produced by on a fasciculate of the adrenal cortex) in human body.
Some researches have indicated that shyness and aggression are related through long and short forms of the gene DRD4. It is found that fear is positively related to shyness, suggesting that fearful children are much more likely to become shy as they grow up. Researches show that when people with the disorder are shown picture of angry faces, their amygdala (almond-shaped groups of nuclei located deep within the medial temporal lobes of the brain in complex vertebrates, including humans.) lights up with more activity than it does with people without this condition.
(It is suggested that shyness and social phobia are related to obsessive-compulsive disorder.)
(Obsessive-compulsive disorder is anxiety disorder characterised by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear or worry. This includes repetitive behaviours aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by combination of such obsession and compulsions).
A symptom of mercury poisoning
Excessive shyness, embarrassment, self-consciousness and timidity, social phobia and lack of self-confidence are also components of erethism (it is a neurological disorder which affects the whole central nervous system, as well as a symptom complex derived from mercury poisoning), which is a symptom complex that appears in cases of mercury poisoning.
An analysis of longitudinal data from children living at specific latitudes in United States and New Zealand revealed a significant relationship between hours of day length during the midpoint of pregnancy and the prevalence of shyness in children. It is seen that children with low birth weight are more likely of becoming shy than the children with high or normal birth weight.
Every person has a different approach towards a particular situation. Shyness occurs while facing an unknown or unfamiliar situation, except in severe conditions in which it occurs in familiar situations too.
It is studied that extreme traits become less pronounced, and personalities evolve in predictable patterns over time. What is proven to remain constant is the tendency to internalise or externalise the problems. Individuals with shy personalities internalise their problems, which leads to disorders such as depression and anxiety.
(A negative relationship is seen between shyness and classroom performance.)
References & Resources
- Image via my.englishclub.com and http://www.pnas.org
- Shyness: What It Is, What To Do About It-Philip G. Zimbardo