What Is Social Inhibition?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2016
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Social inhibition is a term used to describe the behavioral or performance restraint — or lack of restraint — a person displays in the presence of other people. A mild level of social inhibition might not cause much notice, and may even be considered normal. If an individual's level of inhibition is too high or too low, however, social situations and relationships may prove difficult. For example, a person who restrains himself too much might seem withdrawn and have difficulty participating in conversations and social events. A person who is too uninhibited, on the other hand, may behave in a way that alienates others and makes it hard for others to appreciate his company.

Maintaining normal levels of social inhibition may help people keep their behavior within the realm of what is considered acceptable. A person with a normal level of inhibition might feel confident enough to carry on a conversation in a social setting, but would avoid behaving in a frowned-upon manner. For instance, he may appear open and friendly and willing to talk about a range of subjects, but would refrain from making crude jokes to people who are unlikely to find them funny or touching others in a manner that is considered inappropriate.


Sometimes social inhibitions are at higher-than-normal levels, and in such cases, can interfere with the affected person's ability to enjoy social situations or develop personal relationships. For example, a person who is highly inhibited may feel less confident and as if he doesn't fit in with others in social situations. As a result of this, he might seem quiet, withdrawn, unfriendly, or aloof. In reality, however, he might simply feel uncomfortable and unsure of himself or as if others are judging him harshly. In extreme cases, an affected person could even have difficulty showing his emotions or even recognizing them.

When a person's level of social inhibition is too low, however, he may also experience difficultly in the way he relates to others. For example, he might be considered "the obnoxious one" in a crowd who finds ways to insult others and usually acts inappropriately. In fact, his behavior may be so extreme that he could be labeled or diagnosed with antisocial behavior. Interestingly, a very low level of inhibition is often associated with a range of mental health issues. Additionally, many people become very uninhibited when they have consumed significant amounts of alcohol or drugs.


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Post 4

@kylee07drg – It sounds like you have social anxiety disorder. I struggled with this in my early twenties, and medication did help.

Just see your regular doctor and tell him what you are going through. Mine was very sympathetic and gave me medication that started working in just a few days.

I found that I didn't feel nervous or embarrassed when talking to my coworkers at my new job. That had been a big issue with me before I started the medicine. I would recommend that anyone suffering from high social inhibition seek help, because you don't have to live your life in hiding.

Post 3

I know that I have a lot of social inhibition. I am very uncomfortable being around people if I don't know them very well, and I avoid situations in which I would have to talk to strangers.

Could medication help me? I believe I have some kind of disorder, and it might be due to a brain chemical imbalance.

Post 2

We've all known people who aren't inhibited enough. They are often the ones whom everyone else avoids.

I know a lady who just goes about the room, insulting everyone she talks to, but I don't think she does it intentionally. She is socially inept, because she has no idea what is offensive and what isn't.

She isn't shy at all. I think that it would help if she were at least a little shy. She will even speak out during church if she doesn't agree with the pastor, and not many people will do this.

Post 1

I think it's possible for a person to be both socially inhibited and obnoxious. Some people who are antisocial are really self-conscious and scared to join in, but when they do speak, they say exactly what they think because they don't know any better. This can be really offensive to people who have a good grasp on what is acceptable to say and what isn't.

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