Not All Shyness Leads to Anxiety

Children often exhibit behaviors and personality traits that are temporary and do not persist through adulthood. When they cry, pout, or throw a fit, children are expressing their emotions in the only way they know how. As they mature, they develop tools and emotional intelligence so that they can respond to situations in different and more adaptive ways.

But some personality traits and characteristics do persist. Anxiety is one such trait. It may first manifest as shyness in some children, but for many, this shyness develops into anxiety that can have a significant impact on their quality of life. People with high levels of social anxiety may find it challenging to foster strong social relationships and shyness and anxiety may inhibit interactions with others at work, home, and school.

The research on shyness and anxiety has shown some behavioral similarities. But little research has looked at the neurological aspects of anxiety and shyness to determine if there are overlaps and common features shared by both anxiety and shyness. To address this obvious gap in literature, Xun Yang of the Department of Psychiatry at the State Key Lab of Biotherapy and the West China Hospital of Sichuan University in China recently conducted magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of 61 nonclinical adult participants. They were evaluated for shyness, social anxiety, and trait anxiety, and then given MRIs to determine if there were any neurological correlations.

Yang discovered that the participants who scored high on the shyness measures had increased density in gray matter and unique functional connectivity in both the limbic and cortical regions of their brains. These areas are involved in the emotional processing of social cues and social stimuli.

“These associations are not found with social or trait anxiety in healthy subjects despite some behavioral correlations with shyness,” said Yang. These results show that even though some shyness may persist into adulthood for some and may develop into anxiety for others, shyness has unique neurological features that set it apart from anxiety in many ways.

Reference:
Yang, X., Kendrick, K.M., Wu, Q., Chen, T., Lama, S., et al. (2013). Structural and Functional Connectivity Changes in the Brain Associated with Shyness but Not with Social Anxiety. PLoS ONE 8(5): e63151. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0063151

© Copyright 2013 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 12 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Jose

    Jose

    May 20th, 2013 at 11:27 PM

    Interesting..Was shy as a child.And I have to admit I still am a little anxious when it comes to social interaction and such situations..Always thought is was the shyness from childhood.

  • Reba

    Reba

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:01 AM

    I can definitely see where they are coming from because like my granddaughter comes across real shy at first when you first meet her. But then after about thirty minutes she warms right up and is such a great friend to everyone she meets even boys! Hahahaha!

  • Paul R

    Paul R

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    My son. He was one of those that grew out of pitching all them fits. At the grocery store an the park and everywhere else. Even at church. It like to have drove me and my wife crazy. And it is why we didn’t have no more kids. He’s a good adult now though. No fits in the grocery store anymore!

  • Allison

    Allison

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:05 AM

    I just don’t buy that kids throw fits because they don’t have the tools to express themselves. I have two older kids and neither one of them ever pitched a fit anywhere. They didn’t get a chance to. I stopped it before it even got started. It’s called parenting, people. Don’t let stuff go so far before you try to do something about it. If you do, you’re much less likely to get a hold of it and get the kid to stop doing whatever it is you want them to stop doing.

  • Jerry

    Jerry

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    My aunt was so so so so so shy.

    She really couldn’t leave her house because she was so shy.

    And she didn’t want a lot of people to come to her house.

    To be honest, I only saw her once that I can remember because she was so shy.

    My mom loved her sister, but there wasn’t really anything she could do to help her.

    It was sad cuz she died alone.

    But then again maybe that’s how she wanted it.

  • Hudson

    Hudson

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:10 AM

    So I think I definitely fit the bill on this one. I can talk all day online, but I don’t never leave my house. I was shy when I was a little boy too and didn’t never have no friends. Glad to know I’m not the only one.

  • Naomi K

    Naomi K

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:14 AM

    Now I’m sad. My granddaughter is very shy. I am afraid now that she won’t outgrow it. I pray that she will though. I don’t want it to affect her whole life.
    I’ll be sure to send this to my son and his wife. Maybe it will help them help her. I sure hope so. I hate to see her have problems with her job and all when she gets older.
    Maybe my son and daughter-in-law can get her some help from a therapist before it is too late and her shyness is something that is too hard for her to get over.

  • MANDI

    MANDI

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:20 AM

    HORRAY FOR XUN YANG FOR TAKING THE TIME TO DO THIS STUDY I’M VERY SURPRISED IT WASN’T DONE BEFORE NOW IT SEEMS LIKE A LOGICAL THING TO DO I AM VERY INTERESTED IN THE RESULTS OF THIS STUDY AND CAN’T WAIT TO SHARE THEM WITH MY DAUGHTER WHO IS A THERAPIST WHO WORKS WITH KIDS WHO ARE VERY SHY AND NERVOUS I THINK IT WILL BE OF INTEREST TO HER AND PROBABLY HER COLLEAGUES TOO.

  • Cortez

    Cortez

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:21 AM

    What I think is so interesting is that shyness is related to processing social cues and social stimuli. It totally makes sense if you think about it.

  • Hector

    Hector

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:25 AM

    Glad to hear that being shy doesn’t necessarily doom you to a life of being a nervous wreck. Cuz that would totally suck for my brother. Who is very shy and has 0 friends. And he’s 13. Still hope for the old boy I guess.

  • Cason

    Cason

    May 21st, 2013 at 2:27 AM

    Thanks so much for this great work, just wonderful news to hear, everyone else who is shy will also be happy, especially people with shy kids, so thanks to making this available to us, I really appreciate it.

  • andrea

    andrea

    May 21st, 2013 at 3:56 AM

    I am much more shy now than I ever was as a child, but I have to say that I don’t ever get too anxious about it. It is who I am and how I interact with other people- and really just once I get to know you. Once that barrier is broken I am fine. Not that I am not fine until then, it just takes me a while to open up. Never stresses me out too much at all, but I do think that there are other people that it makes a little uncomfrotable, especially if I see they are trying really hard. Almost gets them frustrated I think.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.