What do you call someone who is shy, withdrawn, fearful of being approached, and with little interest for or even fear of social events? Sociopath would be too harsh of a term (but close) and shy too mild.

  • 7
    Why do you think that a sociopath has these characteristics? – Mr.Wizard Jan 20 '13 at 22:34
  • 5
    Did you mean sociophobe when you wrote sociopath? – Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 22:49
  • 1
    Introverted, perhaps? – Joe Z. Jan 21 '13 at 2:42
  • 1
    I think "thesaurus" is the thing you are looking for. It's a general reference work which allows you to look up other similar words with the same meaning. – 410 gone Jan 21 '13 at 9:55

A recluse is a much better word if you want to say that they avoid social contact, without passing any judgement on their behaviour.

| improve this answer | |

A mild form of social withdrawal might be expressed as wallflower. According to American Heritage, he or she is

One who does not participate in the activity at a social event because of shyness or unpopularity

If the withdrawal is so significant as to avoid social contact, perhaps reclusive. Collins defines it as

living alone and deliberately avoiding the company of others

She had become increasingly ill and reclusive.

One of Hollywood's most reclusive stars.

He was reclusive by nature.

Obviously, some who are reclusive may have adopted that lifestyle for reasons other than shyness or fear, such as those who do so for religious reasons.

| improve this answer | |

Some terms suggested in previous questions (1, 2) include
private, “Secretive; reserved”
introverted, “Possessing the characteristic property of an introvert. Preferring the internal, satisfied with self, lacking interest or comfort in social interactions
untalkative, “unwilling to talk; taciturn; refusing to speak”
secretive, “Having or marked by an inclination to secrecy; not open, forthright, or frank”
taciturn, “temperamentally disinclined to talk”
closemouthed, “cautious in speaking”
reticent, “inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech”, “restrained in expression, presentation, or appearance”, “keeping one's thoughts and opinions to oneself; reserved or restrained”

| improve this answer | |
  • Since the OP was looking for a noun, worth noting that "introvert" is the noun for someone who is introverted, and that none of the others on the list really have a noun form. – calum_b Jan 21 '13 at 10:20

If you mean to the point where they have a general social anxiety disorder, then sociophobe, though since "social anxiety disorder" is prefer over "sociophobia", it might be better to say "they suffer from social anxiety disorder". (Specialised social anxiety disorders only apply to certain situations, and sufferers may not be at all withdrawn in other situations.

Closer to the shy end of the spectrum, you would have timid, reticent and reserved.

Introverted is often taken as being something similar to this, though its better thought of as a personal disinclination toward social events than necessarily being withdrawn or shy.

| improve this answer | |
  • Yes, perhaps "sociophobe" is a more adequate term. But, what I mean is closer to a pathological case. Something similar to autism. Perhaps "misanthrope" might be best, but I'm looking for a more common, or even slang term for it. Thank you. – Andrew Jan 21 '13 at 1:23
  • Sociophobe does refer to the pathological case, where they have a social anxiety disorder. At it's etymological roots, autism would match what you describe pretty well, but it is far too tied to a particular spectrum of syndromes for such a widening to work well; people would only ever hear it in the specific sense. – Jon Hanna Jan 21 '13 at 1:32

My daughter is diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. It is a disorder because it affects her ability to function (in school, in groups of people, at work). “Sociophobe” describes what she is quite well. But, probably because some people would be inclined to confuse it with “sociopath”, it is seen as a negative word for the disorder. She is not a sociopath – quite the opposite.

Sociopaths can and do deal very well with people. They can be very charismatic and have no trouble interacting with others. Con artists and cult leaders are frequently sociopaths and they are very good with people. You probably know a few sociopaths and don’t know it.

Psychopaths, on the other hand, don’t deal well with people all – though not in the fashion you are describing. Here’s an article on the subject: “Sociopath Vs. Psychopath: There is a Difference” by Jeanne Marie Kerns.¹

| improve this answer | |

I think @JonHanna's suggestion is the most accurate. The others (timid, reticent, reclusive, taciturn, etc.) describe an outward behavior, not an internal state.

introverted describes an internal state, but it doesn't necessarily extend from fear or discomfort, so there's ambiguity with this choice, as well.

Closely related to sociophobe is agoraphobe, someone who has a fear of crowds and public places. This word has the added benefit of not being easily confused with sociopath.

| improve this answer | |

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.