Social anxiety is a term that frequently surfaces in various conversations. Yet it often carries misconceptions that contribute to the creation of myths. In this blog, we aim to dispel prevalent misunderstandings surrounding social anxiety, bringing clarity to the intricacies of this widespread human experience. Let’s explore the reality behind these common myths, gaining a deeper understanding of what social anxiety truly is:

Myth 1: Social Anxiety Is Just Being Nervous

Social anxiety is more than a fleeting nervous reaction; it is a sustained experience that extends beyond a specific situation. While nervousness is temporary, anxiety can linger, affecting various aspects of life. It is crucial to distinguish between the two, acknowledging that social anxiety is a unique facet of the human experience with its own complexities.

Myth 2: Social Anxiety Is the Same as Shyness

Shyness consistently involves a tendency to withdraw from social interactions and retreat inward. Consequently, the primary symptoms of shyness closely mirror those of social anxiety. Shyness encompasses a spectrum ranging from mild social awkwardness to extreme forms of withdrawal and inhibition, which can be indistinguishable from social anxiety. Nevertheless, a significant distinction between individuals who are shy and those grappling with social anxiety is evident. For some, shyness is a transient experience, lasting a few months or years in childhood, resurfacing during adolescence, or occurring intermittently. In addition, shyness of course can also show itself beyond adolescence in situations that are novel for us or when things are at stake (e.g., a job interview), however, it tends to fade once the initial interaction passes as we ‘warm up’, which is different from social anxiety since anxiousness tends to persist.

Myth 3: Social Anxiety Only Refers to Public Speaking Fears

The manifestations of social anxiety are diverse. While some individuals may experience it in specific situations, such as public speaking. Or when interacting with sexually attractive individuals, others encounter its impact across a broad range of social interactions. In such cases, it is termed generalised social anxiety, emphasising that the challenges extend beyond isolated instances to encompass various situations involving interactions with others.

Myth 4: All People with Social Anxiety are Introverts

Not everyone with social anxiety is an introvert. Introverts, who lean towards solitary activities, find satisfaction in pursuits that allow them to immerse themselves independently, regardless of social interactions. The key distinction between introverts and those dealing with social anxiety lies in their relationship with social life. Introverts do not experience fear and nervousness in social situations; instead, social interactions play a different role in their lives.

Contrary to common assumptions, introverts can effortlessly build close friendships and intimate relationships when they are interested. Their inclination towards solitude and independent activities does not stem from loneliness or isolation; rather, it is a reflection of their personality trait.

Myth 5: Social Anxiety is Simply a Lack of Social Skills

Social anxiety is not solely a result of lacking social skills, although it may be true for some individuals, it does not apply to the majority. Many people naturally acquire their social skills without explicitly learning the ‘rules of the game,’ much like mastering riding a bicycle without delving into the laws of motion. The ability to navigate social interactions often comes instinctively, without the need for explicit understanding. When individuals are anxious, worried, or fearful, it becomes challenging to effectively employ their social skills. It is important to recognise that anxiety can hinder the natural expression of these abilities. Therefore, attributing social anxiety solely to a deficiency in social skills is a maladaptive belief that oversimplifies the complexity of this common human experience.

Myth 6: Social anxiety is no big deal – everyone has it!

Social anxiety is often downplayed with the notion that it is a common experience everyone encounters. While it is true that social anxiety is a normal phenomenon that everyone feels at times, its impact on an individual’s life requires a closer look at the context. Distinguishing between normal and clinical levels of anxiety can be challenging, as social anxiety exists on a spectrum. At a normal level, it tends to be intermittent, with feelings coming and going. Like everyone, there are challenging moments, such as the anxiety of starting a new job and proving one’s capabilities.

There are also moments of relative ease and confidence. Yet, for those whose social anxiety reaches a level of significant distress, the challenging times outnumber the good ones, and the negative experiences tend to be more intense. Recognizing these variations helps us appreciate the complexity of social anxiety and understand that, for some, it can be more than just a passing discomfort.

Myth 7: Drink a Glass of Wine, All Will be Fine

Relying on alcohol is a common but maladaptive coping mechanism for individuals struggling with social anxiety. While alcohol can provide an immediate calming effect and temporarily reduce inhibitions, it often serves as a short-term solution with long-term drawbacks. The belief that alcohol can boost social courage may lead to the development of an addiction. Although alcohol may make individuals feel more talkative and less inhibited in social situations, it is crucial to acknowledge its depressant effect. Over time, excessive alcohol use is more likely to exacerbate feelings of distress rather than alleviate them. Addressing social anxiety through healthier coping strategies and seeking support can lead to more sustainable and positive outcomes in the long run.

Myth 8: There is Nothing You Can Do to Treat Social Anxiety

While social anxiety is indeed a normal human experience, suggesting that there is nothing one can do to treat it oversimplifies the situation. It is accurate that social anxiety may not have a definitive “cure” in the traditional sense, but it does not mean individuals are powerless in managing its impact. Social anxiety can markedly affect various aspects of life, including daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being.

Recognizing social anxiety as a valid and treatable mental health condition is crucial. Numerous evidence-based self-help techniques, resources, and professional assistance are available to support individuals facing social anxiety. Seeking help and implementing strategies can make a substantial difference in managing and alleviating the challenges associated with social anxiety, promoting a healthier and more fulfilling life.

If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.

Seray Soyman is working as a Clinical Psychosexologist within the Willingness team, providing psychosexual education and sexual support sessions, as well as delivering training and workshops. She has a master’s degree in Clinical Psychosexology from the Sapienza University of Rome. Seray’s research interests are sexual communication, sex-positive behaviour, LGBTQIA+ studies, and sexual health.


Butler, G. (2016). Overcoming social anxiety and shyness: A self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques. Hachette UK.

Morrison, A. S., & Heimberg, R. G. (2013). Social anxiety and social anxiety disorder. Annual review of clinical psychology, 9, 249-274.