Can Shyness Be Considered a Disorder?

I think it should be. From someone who suffers from sometimes debilitating shyness, I can say from personal experience that it has a lot of the same factors as other disorders: it can be debilitating, it can make your limbs twitch uncontrollably, your social life suffers, you are prone to hot flashes, the simplest interactions can be exhausting, and spontaneous paralyzation is a constant threat.

An otherwise witty, intelligent person can be rendered speechless and stupid in a matter of nanoseconds. All it takes is some awkward social situation, large crowds, being asked to speak in front of more than zero people, or the merest glimpse of your crush coming toward you. In practice, I am full of witty, urbane, poignant sayings when mine comes toward me. In practice, I bray out an embarrassingly loud laugh and a hello which in contrast seems passive and almost silent. It has gotten so bad that I suspect my crush, Scientist Prince Charming, is now too embarrassed to look at me head on. I think it is kindness, or perhaps he is just wary. Shy people tent to lunge and jerk around. I did that, too, when my asshole coworker decided to poke and tickle me as my crush passed by. Yeah. Thanks for that one, you harpy. The next time you have something in your teeth, I’m not telling you. And I’m tripping you over the banister on the way downstairs. Try to Mary Poppins your way outta that one.

Shyness makes the simplest interactions a burden. Rather than speak up if you have something to add to a conversation, you will stand there and blush for no reason other than that you considered maybe saying something. God forbid you open your mouth to talk and someone talks before you can. That’s a nuclear blush right there. Total meltdown. Proceed with evacuation procedures. Women, children, and flammable materials first.

You overanalyze everything in retrospect, like, “Did he notice my rolling eyes and foaming mouth when I was trying to say good morning?” Little things like that. Of course, actually saying good morning took a week of personal pep talks and a handle of vodka as it was, so anything was possible.

Here’s the irony, though, once I get to know a person, the shyness evaporates as though it never was. I had two reactions to this fact last week. I was discussing my paralyzing shyness when my crush comes by and I was wondering how I could get over it. One friend at work literally laughed at me and said, “Yeah, right. You? Shy?” I had to remind her of when she first came around and what our conversations were like then. Another friend on my team does remember. She said that I was a little awkward and a little shy at first, but it was through e-mails that my personality really shone. But, you see, I’m not attracted to either of them. And that makes all the difference. The point here is that once I get to know someone, I’m both barrels inappropriate, not shy, can talk and say anything, and my speech patterns are those of one possessed by a demon.

The problem is, how do you get to know someone when there is no reason to e-mail him and the only moments you have are around many other people and for very brief moments? A confident person would find a way. A people-person would talk anyway. I am writing this at work to post later, and as I wrote that last sentence, Scientist Prince Charming passed by me and gave me a sideways glance out of the corner of his eye. He does it every time he passes me. This time he almost ran into two of our managers. Logic says that he wants to talk to me, too. But I apparently can’t. My whole personality burns up in the heat of my blushing face.

But if shyness was an official disorder, we could create a foundation. We would have a low-key web site. We would accept not monetary donations, but scouts. People to venture forth and take care of the social situations for us. People, for instance, to ask out my scientist crush for me. To tell the jokes we make up and to get into that comfort zone for us. There would be workshops taught by the Formerly Shy. There would be test runs. For days when you were feeling too shy, your doctor could put you on FMLA. Federal subsidies would follow. We would have meetings, for all the good they would do. But we would be together, holding hands, blushing, and not saying a word.

~ by Darren Endymion on December 8, 2014.

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