Shyness and Social Anxiety

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Statue, Montparnasse Cemetery

Shyness and Social Anxiety

A look at the evolutionary basis of shyness and social anxiety. Possible advantages to being shy, and why treatment sometimes becomes necessary.

Many of us feel nervous if we have to make a speech in public. But for the more than 40% of Americans who are chronically shy, even ordering food in a restaurant can cause deep anxiety. Their palms sweat, their hearts race, and their faces grow flush. Medical treatment and therapy is widely available for social anxiety, but some argue that shyness is not a sickness. They say shy people listen better and have higher levels of empathy. A look at shyness, its evolutionary basis, and why it might be an asset.


David Sloan Wilson

Distinguished Professor of Biology and Anthropology at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Binghamton; director of The Evolution Institute;

Dr. Liza Gold

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical Center

Todd Kashdan

Associate Professor of Psychology and Senior Scientist at George Mason University

Susan Cain

author of the forthcoming book, "Quiet" (2012) and The Power of Introverts blog

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