While the world almost seems infatuated with labelling introverts, extroverts, ambiverts – your social inclination or personality traits rarely, if ever, have anything to do with whether you will experience some form of anxiety.
Quite often, “introverted” and “socially anxious” get used interchangeably for the quieter of us. Having said that, you can be a socially anxious introvert, just as you can be a socially anxious extrovert. For example, you may crave going out and having social interactions, but worry you’ll say something stupid or be negatively judged by others.
So what are some of the differences?
1. Nature vs Nurture – you were born an introvert, your experience and environment made you socially anxious.
2. Introverts find that solitude makes them feel good, those who experience social anxiety often crave being around others.
Knowing that introversion is a personality trait that runs along a spectrum, introverted people tend to draw energy from within. Solitude and relaxing may appeal to you and you may choose to spend more time unwinding alone and making plans with yourself over others.
You may find interacting with others draining in large doses, and need time to yourself to restore your energy. Feeling drained is not the same as feeling anxious. You might find you like spending time with others, as long as you can leave when you need to, have enough energy and the atmosphere isn’t too overwhelming (the introvert hangover is real).
Introverts may identify with the following: disliking confrontation, preference to share thoughts and feelings through creative outlets, carefully considering decisions and strong listening skills.
Personality traits are generally a part of who we are and not necessarily something we can work to change. Whilst you can learn to develop skills and tools to help you feel more at ease among groups of people, it is unlikely you will draw your energy from these sources.
If you’re introverted you may like to keep to yourself due to your preference for solitude.
Conversely, those with social anxiety may want to surround themselves with a crowd, however, feel nervous and worry about potential rejection and judgment. When avoidance and fear account for a large part of the time you spend alone, social anxiety is likely the issue.
Those who experience social anxiety can feel nervousness and fear in social situations, or can be anxious thinking about social situations.
When people with social anxiety do attend social gatherings, they often spend a significant amount of time worrying about what they have said or done, or how they were perceived.
Those with social anxiety may experience:
- avoidance of interactions with people they don’t know well;
- feeling anxious about embarrassing themselves in public;
- fear that others will notice their anxiety;
- intense self-consciousness;
- excessive worry and rumination of social events and what they said and did;
- fixation on social slip ups (for example, forgetting someone’s name);
- and feeling frustrated or lonely that they can’t connect with others in the way they would like.
The take away?
The largest distinction between the two is fear; introversion is born, social anxiety is made.
Author: Tara Pisano, BA (Psych) (Hons), M Psych.
Tara Pisano is a Brisbane psychologist with a special interest in early intervention in adolescents and young adults, as this is when three quarters of mental health conditions emerge. In her practice, she draws on a range of evidence-based therapies such as CBT, DBT, IPT, ACT and Motivational Interviewing, to promote recovery and positive outcomes.
To make an appointment with Tara Pisano, try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Loganholme on (07) 3067 9129 or Vision Psychology Wishart on (07) 3088 5422.
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