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J Anxiety Disord. 2009 May;23(4):469-76. doi: 10.1016/j.janxdis.2008.10.002. Epub 2008 Oct 15.

Differentiating social phobia from shyness.

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Department of Psychology, Maryland Center for Anxiety Disorders, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA.


To clarify the relationship between social phobia and shyness, this study examined the characteristics of highly shy persons with social phobia, highly shy persons without social phobia, and non-shy persons. Those with social phobia reported more symptomatology, more functional impairment, and a lower quality of life than those without social phobia. About one-third of the highly shy without social phobia reported no social fears, highlighting heterogeneity of the shy. The social phobia group reported similar levels of anxiety as the shy without social phobia during analogue conversation tasks, but they reported more anxiety during a speech task. The social phobia group performed less effectively across tasks than those without social phobia. All groups' perceptions of anxiety and effectiveness during behavioral tasks were consistent with ratings of independent observers. None of the groups differed on psychophysiological measures. Results are discussed in the context of theoretical models of social phobia.

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