Everyone can be a little shy at times; however, extreme shyness can interfere with interaction in social situations and even lead to anxiety and depression.
Some very shy individuals experience anxiety in social situations, as these people typically have lower self-esteem and are very concerned with what others think of them.1 They are often driven by a fear of rejection, which prevents them from growing closer to others and attending social situations.1 While usually not severe enough to merit a diagnosis of social phobia or social anxiety, shyness can have a very powerful effects on a person’s sense of well-being.1
Research suggests different causes of extreme shyness, including genetic influences, prenatal influences, environmental factors, and traumatic social episodes.1 Shyness often begins in early childhood, and children who are very shy are often bullied and rejected by their peers.1 Their friendships, if any, are often of low quality. These children tend to internalize anxiety, depression, and loneliness.1
As shy children continue into adulthood, they are more likely to continue to experience depression, anxiety, and loneliness.1 When adolescents begin to take on adult roles and form romantic attachments, shy people are less likely to date, get married, and enter into other stable relationships.1 During this time, humans are learning the social skills needed to form intimate relationships.1 Through relationships, young adults learn what they are looking for in a permanent partner and become better at handling a stable relationship.1 Extremely shy people do not gain these experiences and their ability to form and keep permanent relationships later in life may be at risk.1
One study of 1159 undergraduates in Canada were asked to complete a questionnaire on relationship status, shyness, and relationship quality.1 Results showed that those in relationships were less shy than those who were not.1 Also, shyer people reported poorer quality romantic relationships overall.1 Shyness negatively affected intimacy and was associated with insecure romantic attachments and greater attachment anxiety.1
Those who are shy have a difficult time communicating, especially about personal matters.1 They are also less likely to be responsive to others.1 They have issues trusting others, depending on them, and receive less social support due to such.1
It is completely normal to feel a certain amount of shyness when meeting new people for the first time; however, excessive shyness can lead to loneliness and poorer quality relationships.1 It can lead to depression and anxiety.1 Developing confidence in oneself is the biggest defense against shyness.1