Shyness and Social Skills  

What is it

We all have a tendency to feel uneasy when faced with a new social situation or in meeting an unfamiliar person for the first time. There are some people however, who feel severely shy and awkward in social situations and this impacts on them communicating confidently with others. Personal feelings of isolation, helplessness and of being misunderstood are common to these, as well as challenges in maintaining relationships socially and at work. Over time, this can lead people to give up on future life goals (i.e. promotions, marriage or a family) as symptoms become more severe, but there are effective short term treatments available to overcome shyness if people help seek.  

What does it include

Shy people often report the following symptoms in social environments (i.e. work, exams, presentations, lunch or dinner parties and job interviews) –

• Stress, nervousness and a sense of insecurity.
• Physical sensations including breathlessness, sweating, shakiness or blushing.
• Worries about what others may be thinking about them and dwelling on their performance in a recent social situation.
• Difficulties with non-verbal communication, conversational and assertiveness skills including passivity, avoiding eye contact and confusion about what to say to others. 

If you or someone you care about has been exhibiting the symptoms above and has started to avoid or withdraw from social situations, it is important they are encouraged to see a GP or psychologist for a thorough mental health assessment. Shyness can often mask other conditions such as social or generalised anxiety which can also benefit from psychological treatment but make their experiences more distressing if facing them alone.

How can a psychologist help

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is an evidence based treatment used to assist individuals in overcoming shyness, social anxiety and in building confidence in managing social settings. This approach focuses on psychoeducation about triggers and symptoms, on building then refining social skills and challenging negative thoughts about the self that can impact on social performance. Treatment also focuses on increasing ways of managing any interpersonal setbacks that may arise through use of role play scenarios, then application in real life scenarios. 


    Antony, M. & Swinson, R. (2000). Shyness and Social Anxiety Workbook: Proven Techniques for Overcoming Your Fears. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.

    Butler, G. (2016) Overcoming Social Anxiety and Shyness (2nd Ed). A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques. England: Little, Brown Book Group.

    Kazin, A. E. (2000). Encyclopedia of Psychology (8th Edition). Washington: American Psychological Association.

    If you require additional information, please call our office on 07 3256 6320. Our mental health focused reception staff will be only too happy to assist you with your enquiry about our service and can suggest the most suitable Psychologist for your concern.

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    Psychologists who work in this service

    Ian Macdonald
    Ian Macdonald
    Accredited Mental Health & Clinical Social Worker
    Lisa Loots
    Lisa Loots
    Mental Health Accredited Social Worker
    Carolina Gonzalez
    Carolina Gonzalez
    Clinical Psychologist
    Mary Kedwell
    Mary Kedwell
    Psychologist/ Family Therapist
    Teracia Sehgal
    Teracia Sehgal
    Gregory Kelly
    Gregory Kelly
    MH Focused Social Worker