Shyness: relationship to social phobia and other psychiatric disorders

Behav Res Ther. 2003 Feb;41(2):209-21. doi: 10.1016/s0005-7967(02)00003-7.


The relationship between shyness, social phobia and other psychiatric disorders was examined. The prevalence of social phobia was significantly higher among shy persons (18%) compared with non-shy persons (3%). However, the majority of shy individuals (82%) were not socially phobic. A significant and positive correlation was found between the severity of shyness and the presence of social phobia, but the data suggest that social phobia is not merely severe shyness. Social phobia was also positively and moderately correlated with introversion and neuroticism. Thus, shy persons with social phobia were shyer, more introverted, and more neurotic than other shy people, but none of these factors was sufficient to distinguish shy persons with social phobia from those without social phobia. The proportion of the shy group with psychiatric diagnoses other than social phobia was significantly higher than among the non-shy group, indicating that various diagnostic categories are prominent among the shy. The results are discussed in terms of the overlap in shyness and social phobia and the relationship of shyness to other psychiatric diagnoses and personality dimensions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / psychology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Introversion, Psychological
  • Male
  • Neurotic Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Tests
  • Phobic Disorders / psychology*
  • Shyness*