Is It Introversion or Social Anxiety?
It's difficult to know the difference between introversion and social anxiety. When I was younger, I considered myself to be a shy person. However, I also knew I was an introvert and that I struggled with anxiety. Unfortunately, this also contributed to difficulties that I experienced in social situations and missing out on opportunities.
As I learned more about psychology and learned more about myself, I would often wonder if what I experienced in social situations was due to anxiety, being an introvert, or just simply shyness. I thought this would be important for me to identify because this could lead to figuring out how to cope. I didn't want to continue to miss out on opportunities in life just because it was difficult to interact with others in social situations.
What's the Difference Between Introversion and Social Anxiety?
So what is the difference between introversion and social anxiety, and why does it matter? It mattered to me because it actually helped me be able to logically think through how I felt when interacting with others. Processing information and organizing my thoughts helps me to reduce my anxiety.
Generally speaking, introversion is not a condition; rather, it is a personality trait that we may have.1 On the other hand, social anxiety is technically an anxiety disorder. Some of the differences between introversion and social anxiety are that introverts tend to prefer to be alone because this is how they re-energize. They find quiet, calm, and environments with low stimulation to feel more comfortable.
Struggling with social anxiety, on the other hand, is associated with the usual anxiety symptoms but in association with social situations.1 So, for example, that intense fear that I often experience in association with my anxiety can be present in social settings to the point that I will avoid them intentionally.
How I Cope with Introversion and Social Anxiety
Personally, I've found that I've dealt with both throughout my life. Still, I've learned how to manage my anxiety in social situations, just as I've learned to manage my anxiety in general.
First of all, I've come to accept that I am just naturally an introvert, and that is okay. Often, I simply prefer to be in quieter environments or do activities on my own, but I am also aware that this is just part of my personality.
To deal with my social anxiety, along with other coping strategies I use for anxiety, I have found it important to address any distorted thought processes. For example, I directly address intrusive, worrisome thoughts that enter my head. If I start worrying about being judged by someone, I immediately challenge that thought.
I also use self-affirmations to help boost my confidence and self-esteem. This helps prevent me from second-guessing and ruminating about interactions with others.
Lastly, I use mindfulness to focus on the present moment without allowing thoughts to drift toward worries about the future.
Are you a natural introvert? Do you deal with social anxiety? Or do you have both? How do you cope in social situations when you are anxious? Share your strategies in the comments below.
- Introversion vs. Social Anxiety. (n.d.). Mental Health America. https://mhanational.org/introversion-vs-social-anxiety
Bermio-Gonzalez, R. (2023, August 17). Is It Introversion or Social Anxiety?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, November 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/treatinganxiety/2023/8/is-it-introversion-or-social-anxiety