Shyness is not a bad psychological trait per se. However, when there is extreme shyness, it can predispose us to difficulties in various facets of our life.

The fact is that extremely shy people have a slightly more difficult time coping with social relationships, both in their professional and working lives, and at virtually any age.

However, anyone is capable of modifying their behavior patterns to control extreme shyness and keep it from becoming a limiting characteristic. That’s exactly what this article is about.

What is extreme shyness?

Shyness is a psychological trait in which the main characteristic is the concern for the assessments others make about oneself . In other words, the fear of “what they will say”.

In particular, there is a pessimistic bias among shy people that makes them prone to think that any slightly strident behaviour on their part will significantly damage their public image.

As a consequence, when they have to interact with others they tend to maintain a state of hypervigilance of their own actions, which generates a certain level of anxiety . In some cases, if the shyness is extreme, this anxiety can damage the person’s ability to relate to others in a spontaneous and appropriate way.

Typical symptoms

Obviously, extreme shyness is not a mental illness, although in certain cases it can be part of social phobia. However, it is beyond the control of the person who experiences it in his or her own flesh, and it takes shape both psychologically and physiologically .

In general, the signs that indicate the presence of extreme anxiety are the following (in social situations):

  • Muscle tension.
  • Heart rate acceleration .
  • Shaky voice.
  • Lack of eye contact.
  • Abundant sweating.


Extreme shyness is a multi-causal phenomenon, like any psychological characteristic (especially those that refer to our way of relating to others).

That is to say, there are many factors that predispose us to adopt an extremely timid behavioural dynamic . Among the main causes that come into play we find the following, although they do not necessarily have to be present all at once in all the individuals who present this psychological trait.

  • Genetic predispositions.
  • A history of problems with anxiety .
  • A very morally restrictive context.
  • A very competitive context.
  • Low self-esteem.

How do you get over it?

Here you will find several tips on how to overcome extreme shyness from changes in everyday habits. However, it is important to adapt them to each particular case so that they fit the needs of each person.

1. Start with an easy social circle

Overcoming extreme shyness is a kind of training: it requires some time, coping with an upward curve of difficulty, and effort. That is why you have to start with something that is challenging but not overly demanding , to progress from there.

So it’s a good idea to create a social circle that you’ve had contact with before (a contact that hasn’t been particularly negative for you). For example, friends of family members or friends of friends.

2. Start with small groups or individuals

It is easier to overcome shyness if you come into contact with very small groups, rather than large, very cohesive groups where it is clear from the first moment that you are “from the outside”.

If you can, start by talking to people alone (not in a group), because although it may be a bit more complicated to start a conversation, once you have done this everything is more fluid, as you will be closer to a level playing field.

So, if you want to, at first let the other person talk more and don’t be obsessed with saying something at every moment; adopt the role of the listener, but force yourself out of your comfort zone by expressing your ideas, doubts and opinions; don’t keep them to yourself.

3. Notice the imperfections of others

It’s easier to understand that others don’t have to be constantly finding fault with you if you realise that they too are full of faults that arise all the time and that everyone (including you up to that point) automatically and unconsciously overlooks them. Social interactions are always much more spontaneous than elegant and perfect.

Psychological treatment of extreme shyness

Going to therapy with a psychologist can be very helpful in overcoming extreme shyness.

The therapeutic approaches to this problem vary depending on the age of the person, as it is not the same to be a shy child as an adult with serious difficulties in relating to others in their daily life.

On the other hand, it is always necessary to know the particular characteristics of each patient who presents this source of discomfort, precisely because it is necessary to analyse the context in which they usually live and to which they have become accustomed (let us remember that it is a phenomenon with many causes).

In any case, in psychotherapy the work of psychologists is based on modifying the beliefs that the person has about himself and about others , but none of this will make sense if, in addition to the ideas, one does not act on the objective actions that one is used to carrying out in one’s daily life.

Therefore, it is also essential to intervene on the observable behavior, that is, the actions that the subject performs on the environment: placing reminders and notes around the house, changing their schedule, changing places to go out, etc.

The results of therapy with this kind of problems based on personality but also fundamentally on learned patterns of stress management should be noticed in a matter of weeks and few months.

Bibliographic references:

  • Chavira, D. A.; Stein, M. B.; Malcarne, V. L. (2002). “Scrutinizing the relationship between shyness and social phobia. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 16 (6): 585 – 598.
  • Crozier, W. R. (2001). Understanding Shyness: psychological perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave.