Shyness can be make social interactions moderately difficult for some people. For extremely shy people, socializing with other individuals can be excruciating. The worry and fear that come with being in a group setting or communicating in front of other people can increase anxiety, even panic, in extremely shy people. Because of this, it is often challenging for such people to meet romantic partners. But when they do, research suggests that the attachment they feel to their partner may act as a buffer for negative emotional outcomes, including depression and low self-esteem.
In a recent set of studies, H. Claire Rowsell, of the School of Psychology at the University of Wollongong in Australia, compared the shyness levels of individuals in a romantic relationship to those who were not. She further assessed how the attachment bond within the relationship (avoidant, anxious, or secure) influenced byproducts of shyness, including anxiety, depression, and overall well-being. Rowsell evaluated self-reports from more than 1,500 young adults and found that those in romantic relationships had lower levels of shyness than those who were not. However, romantically involved shy individuals reported less satisfying relationships and lower well-being than their less shy counterparts. Additionally, the shy, romantically involved participants experienced more attachment insecurity and anxiety. When Rowsell looked at how being in a relationship affected shyness, she found that the individuals who had secure relationship attachments realized a buffering effect between shyness and well-being. This suggests that relationships can both minimize and maximize the negative effects of shyness.
The findings gathered were based on the participants’ own definition of relationship. This data also was collected from relatively young adults, with an average age of 19. Rowsell believes that future work exploring shyness should be aimed at more clearly defined committed relationships among adults in their twenties. “We are hopeful that the present findings will encourage researchers to further explore the complex links among shyness, romantic relationships, and well-being,” she said.
Rowsell, H. C., Coplan, R. J. (2012). Exploring links between shyness, romantic relationship quality, and well-being. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science / Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029853
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