Are You Introverted or Socially Anxious?

This content has been updated from previous article.

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.

To clarify, introversion is not a mental disorder or social anxiety disorder. It is simply a personality trait where introversion is on one end of the personality spectrum and extroversion being its opposite. It is how people recharge their social battery, and it is not as black as white as many may believe.

In fact, people can also exhibit both introverted and extroverted traits. These people are known colloquially as ambiverts. Ambiverts are in the middle of extroversion and introversion and can act like both in different situations. These characteristics can vary in intensity from person to person.

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 prefers quiet environments, solitude, and a need for time alone to recharge. Introverts enjoy social events, but it tires them out emotionally. They need alone time to recharge and think about things. They achieve this by spending time away.

Introverts also tend to feel more comfortable in smaller gatherings, or one to one interactions. 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) manifests as an Anxiety disorder characterized by an intense and persistent fear of social or performance situations. People with social anxiety experience significant anxiety when placed in situations or interactions where they might be scrutinized, judged, or evaluated by others. 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. It is estimated fifteen million, or 7% of American adults have Social Anxiety Disorder. More than 75% of those with Social Anxiety experience their first symptoms during childhood and early teenage years. It is also common for those who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder to also be at increased risk for Substance Use Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder. Given the prevalence of this mental health condition, remember you are 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 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 you 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.

Authored By 

LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health

LifeStance is a mental healthcare company focused on providing evidence-based, medically driven treatment services for children, adolescents, and adults suffering from a variety of mental health issues in an outpatient care setting, both in-person and through its digital health telemedicine offering.