Shedding Light on Shyness

At one end there is situational shyness, or difficulty speaking with a famous individual or someone you admire. Carducci claims that 95 percent of the general population experiences this at some point in their life.

"I think the people that say they have never experienced this are not telling the truth," he said.

Then there is traditional shyness -- the stereotypical aversion to social situations that many people generally think of when they hear the term.

Among those that are traditionally shy is a group of individuals who use alcohol to help them become more social, or "liquid extroversion," said Carducci. This subtype which is referred to as the "shy alcoholic" may be a red flag for more serious problems with alcohol in the future.

"Contrary to popular belief these individuals actually have more in common with extroverts than introverts," Carducci said. "They want to be with others and they do lots of things to help them deal with the shyness."

Carducci cautions, however, that shyness should not be confused with social anxiety disorder, or SAD, which is classified as a medical disorder.

"They are trying to move [shyness] into the category of social anxiety disorder, and this is not where it belongs," he said.

The main difference in the treatment setting, he said, is that people who are shy don't need medications to help them.

"These people want to talk, they are just looking for someone to listen," Carducci said.

While treatment varies from person to person, Carducci said serious shyness can often be mitigated by drills that emulate real-world conversations and situations -- a "dry rehearsal" of sorts for those who have trouble interacting with others.

And he said that this approach has proven successful for some serious shyness sufferers.

One such success story occurred following a seminar on shyness and dating. A male attendee achieved something that he had previously thought to be impossible: getting a woman's phone number.

"I saw this young man going through all the steps in the conversation," Carducci said. "And then at the end, success."

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