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Are You Introverted or Socially Anxious?

woman appears nervous while friends chat in the background
By Lifestance Health on December 4, 2020

Are you an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert? If you struggle in your interactions with most people, you likely answer “introvert,” rather quickly. After all, extroverts and ambiverts are at least somewhat comfortable in social situations, right? Not exactly. 

While introversion is a healthy personality trait that many people share. On the other hand, social anxiety is a mental health condition that can cause anguish and undue stress. Introverts, extroverts, and ambiverts can all have social anxiety. 

What Does “Introverted” Mean?

An introvert is someone who recharges by being alone. Although they can and do enjoy social functions, socializing drains their emotional energy. Generally, introverts do not seek the center of attention. They tend to be quiet, and they listen more than they talk. However, they do not have emotional pain or anxiety regarding social interactions. 

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety (or social phobia) is a mental health disorder that causes an intense fear of judgment from other people. This fear can negatively impact a person’s work, social life, school, and more. Social anxiety is widely considered as one of the most common mental health disorders. If you live with it, you’re not alone and there is hope. 

How to Tell Between Social Anxiety and Being Introverted

While these definitions help us get a basic understanding of social phobia and introversion, it can still be difficult to tell the difference in your own life. Asking yourself these questions can help you determine whether you should seek help or embrace your introverted tendencies. 

Does it Cause Me Discomfort?

Perhaps the most important difference between social anxiety and introversion is that the former causes emotional pain. Generally speaking, introverts are happy with their introversion. They revel in the chance to stay home and recharge. 

On the other hand, someone with social anxiety does not feel comfortable with their circumstances. Someone with social anxiety may want to go spend time with people, but their anxiety keeps them from feeling able to do so. 

Am I Afraid or Tired?

Another primary difference between social anxiety and introversion is how socializing with others makes the person feel. Think about what goes through your mind when you’re with people, paying special attention to negative feelings.

When you want to go home, is it because you’re tired and just need some time alone? Or are your worrying about what other people are thinking about you? 

People with social anxiety worry that they will be “revealed” or judged by others. This stress interferes with their ability to enjoy any social interactions. 

People with social phobia may think things like:

  • What if I blush or shake? They will all find out how nervous I am.
  • If I say anything, everyone will think I’m stupid. 
  • Everyone is judging my looks.
  • I bet they don’t even like me; they are just being nice.

 

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Pay attention to your automatic thoughts in social situations. If you’re constantly worried that people are going to discover or think something negative about you, that could be a sign of social anxiety. 

Was I Born This Way?

People who are introverted have basically always been that way. For as long as they can remember, they have needed plenty of alone time to recoup. However, social anxiety is often a learned feeling. 

Often, one or more events happened to make someone feel nervous about socializing. For example, someone may have messed up a line in a school play. Bullying, abuse, and other forms of trauma can also cause social anxiety. 

Do I Want Help?

Whether you think you are introverted, socially anxious, or both, you should reach out for help if you think you need it. Our providers can help people with mental health diagnoses or other struggles, such as low self-esteem. 

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