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A shy kid

Under shyness (high terminology also shy , veraltend shyness ) is the anxiety of a man during Tie on interpersonal relationships.

Similar behaviors occur in the case of shame , embarrassment , stage fright , love-shyness and sexual anxiety , but these are limited to special situations ( self-insecure-avoiding personality disorder ). Shyness, on the other hand, describes the general tendency of a person to react with uncertainty or fear when they meet unfamiliar people. However, shyness is - as long as it does not cause suffering ( social phobia ) - not a mental disorder , but an expression of a person's temperament .

In infants , a development phase is regularly observed with transient shyness. It is called stranger and occurs between the 4th and 8th month of life.


Many people show a disposition to fearfulness even in early childhood. This can certainly be influenced by upbringing , but according to the current state of research it is innate. The causes are probably neurochemical in nature. Affected children have an over-excitable amygdala and as a result react to even the slightest triggers with fear and screaming. Unfamiliar, new situations are just as frightening as encountering unfamiliar people. Since the fear mechanism is the same in both cases and those affected tend to be both shy and anxious in the course of their further development, research-oriented psychology treats "shyness" not as an isolated symptom picture, but as an expression of anxiety . It can increase through social failures and rejection or weaken through positive experiences.

Definition of terms

Shyness and introversion

Shy and fearful people are often introverted personalities. Extraverts draw their strength from dealing with other people, introverts draw from themselves. However, there are also shy extroverts. They have overcome their childhood shyness and learned to move successfully among people. Despite their social contacts, they often feel isolated and lonely. The psychologists Mark Snyder and Daniel Goleman speak in the same context of “social chameleons” who are unable to keep their highly developed social skills in balance with their own needs and feelings. Conversely, there are also introverts who are not shy. Although they feel comfortable with people and get along well with them, they tire quickly in company and then have to withdraw to restore their energy.

Sociological explanations

Beyond all differences in temperament, empathy and cultural factors such as tact and politeness can also prevent a person from aggressively establishing relationships with other people.

From a sociological perspective, Susie Scott from the University of Sussex understands shyness as a social phenomenon: The shy people play a social role pre-established by society, as if they were actors in their own life, they use the role model of shy performativity .

Mental disorders

The transition between “normal” shyness and social phobia is often difficult to determine. With the latter, there is massive suffering. Many people with narcissistic personality disorder are shy, but have phases of grandiosity in which they - without performing well, and often in silence - are convinced that they are vastly superior to others.

It is easy to confuse everyday shyness with symptom pictures in which it is not fear that stands in the way of establishing social relationships, but a lack of social competence . This is the case , for example, with disorders in the autism spectrum . Many people with Asperger's Syndrome , for example, have a keen desire for friendship , but are unable to intuitively recognize and understand non-verbal and para-linguistic signals from other people . In the English-speaking world this phenomenon is known as dyssemia . As a result, they communicate awkwardly and easily become outsiders as a result .

Shyness in Literature

Shyness appears often as a topic in literature. One of the most famous shy people in literary history is the nameless first-person narrator in Daphne du Maurier's novel Rebecca (1938), whose introversion is extremely challenged when she marries the owner of a famous English manor and henceforth has to be compared to his charismatic, late first wife. In 1974 Pascal Lainé published his novel La Dentellière about the girl Pomme, who breaks because her surroundings are unable to recognize her natural modesty and unpretentiousness and believes it needs to be corrected.

In addition, literature knows many shy men, such as Levin, the second main character in Lev Tolstoy's Anna Karenina (1877/78), who is clumsy in his social behavior and does not fit into any scheme. Jane Austen had already published her masterpiece Pride and Prejudice in 1813 , the plot of which is largely due to the misunderstanding that arises from the fact that the main female character Elizabeth mistakenly considers her admirer Darcy, who is actually very shy, to be haughty. With Bilbo Baggins , JRR Tolkien created an antihero in 1954/55 who proves that even an introvert can be ready and brave for adventure - even if his only goal is to be able to return to the security of his home.


  • Margarete Eisner: About shyness - depth psychological and anthropological aspects. V&R Unipress, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-89971-882-9 .
  • Shyness. In: Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm : German dictionary. S. Hirzel, Leipzig 1854–1960, vol. 15, columns 182–183.
  • Elke A. Pilz: Shyness. In: Josef Rattner: Knowledge of human nature through the study of character. Bechtermünz Verlag, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-8289-1802-6 , pp. 262-281.
  • Doris Schüler: Strengthening shy children. How to overcome fears, discover your gifts and develop your personality. Amondis, Seeheim-Jugenheim 2011, ISBN 978-3-943036-00-8 .
  • Harald Schultz-Hencke : The inhibited person - draft of a textbook of neo-psychoanalysis. 1940. (6th edition, Thieme, Stuttgart 1989, ISBN 3-13-401806-3 )
  • Florian Werner : Shy. Commitment to an underrated quality. Nagel & Kimche, Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-312-00544-4 .
  • Philip Zimbardo : Don't be shy! This will help you out of your embarrassment. 8th edition. Mvg, Munich [u. a.] 1994, ISBN 3-478-02500-1 .

Web links

Commons : Shyness  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Shyness  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bernardo Carducci Shyness: The New Solution Psychology Today, 2000.
  2. Jerome Kagan: Galen's Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature. Westview Press, 1997, ISBN 0-8133-3355-5 ; Daniel Goleman : Emotional Intelligence . Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. 1st edition. Bantam, New York 1995, ISBN 0-553-09503-X , pp. 221-223 .
  3. ^ Jens B. Asendorpf, Franz J. Neyer: Psychology of Personality. Springer, 1990, p. 323.
  4. Erika B. Hilliard: Living Fully With Shyness and Social Anxiety: Comprehensive Guide to Gaining Social Confidence. New York: Marlowe & Company, 2005, ISBN 1-56924-397-2 , p. 10 ( limited online version in Google Book Search - USA )
  5. Philip Zimbardo : Textbook of Psychology . Third, revised edition. Berlin, Heidelberg, ISBN 978-3-662-08326-0 , pp. 324 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  6. ^ Philip G. Zimbardo : Shyness: What It Is - What to Do About It. Addison-Wesley, London 1977, ISBN 0-201-55018-0 , p. 32 f.
  7. ^ Mark Snyder: Impression Management: The Self in Social Interaction. In: LS Wrightsman, K. Deaux (eds.): Social Psychologie in the '80s. Brooks / Cole, Monterey 1981; 'Social chameleon' map pay emotional price. In: The New York Times. March 12, 1985; Daniel Goleman: Emotional Intelligence . Why It Can Matter More Than IQ. 1st edition. Bantam, New York 1995, ISBN 0-553-09503-X , pp. 119 f .
  8. Erika B. Hilliard: Living Fully With Shyness and Social Anxiety: Comprehensive Guide to Gaining Social Confidence. Marlowe & Company, New York 2005, ISBN 1-56924-397-2 , p. 10 ( restricted online version in Google Book Search - USA ).
  9. ^ Susie Scott: Transitions and transcendence of the self: stage fright and the paradox of shy performativity. In: Sociology , 51 (2017) 4, pp. 715-731. ISSN 0038-0385.
  10. ^ Marshall Duke, Stephen Nowicki: Helping The Child Who Doesn't Fit In. Peachtree Publisher, Atlanta 1992; see. en: Dyssemia