There are certain social scenarios that tend to release the proverbial butterflies in our stomachs. Just the idea of standing up to speak in front of a room full of people or walking into a crowded party, for example, is enough to make many squirm—and that’s to be expected.

In 1975, a surprising new study revealed that about 40 percent of Americans consider themselves to be shy. Many of those people are able to overcome their shyness in order to function. After an initial warm-up period, they usually acclimate to the situation and start to feel more comfortable.

But for those who suffer from social anxiety disorder, the problem goes deeper than run-of-the-mill shyness. They may struggle with even the most common everyday activities, like making small talk, maintaining eye contact, entering a room full of people or—in severe cases—simply going to work or school.


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