It is a common misconception that introversion is equal to social anxiety. Several people suspect that these two blend, furthermore some of them think, the word ‘introverted’ is only a more gentle and fashionable term for the name of social phobia.
Let’s analyze in what aspect these two concepts vary from each other and what social anxiety and introversion mean indeed!
As we have already outlined it in our previous article here, introversion-besides extroversion and ambiversion-is a personality type, and it defines many people, covering many successful and influential individuals. The introverted personality trait is not odd, not negative, and need not be ’amended’.
Furthermore, an introverted person does not necessarily want to avoid company, even sometimes needs it and enjoys it, in case he or she is surrounded by valuable people. They merely differ from their more extroverted companions in a way that they filter the quality and quantity of their relationships more thoroughly. Introverts are also different from them as they regain their energy lost by separating themselves from others, this means, they need to be by themselves for a while. They like to think and analyze things and prove to be good conversational partners, attentive listeners and trustworthy. Unlike common misbeliefs, they are not escaping from people and they are not afraid of receiving an unfavorable opinion or negative judgment.
On the other hand, social anxiety is pretty much different. What exactly does this mean?
We can classify social phobia or social anxiety as mental disorder, similar to depression, obsessive compulsive-disorder (OCD) and other personality disorders. A person like that can be marked by increased fear of negative judgment and constant refusal.
This influences their everyday life in a way that they:
- have a strong fear of having a conversation with others,
- do not initiate a conversation at all,
- are afraid of phone conversations,
- are not willing to take part in public activities,
- do not express their own opinion,
- cannot ask permission to go to bathroom being a student,
- avoid eating in public places, e.g. in restaurants, etc.
In a summary, they are constantly afraid of doing something that people laugh at, judge, or condemn. The resulting stress is almost intolerable for them.
Although they long for support, they often cannot seek and accept help. The ‘what if…’ assumption activates in their thoughts constantly, so they feel they have to step back in order to protect themselves. For instance, many of them do not even go shopping and they lock themselves in their apartment for long periods to avoid meeting with others.
All this can lead to persistent tension, stress, panic attack, alcoholism and complete isolation in their cases. These people generally realize that their fears are unrealistic and with no reason, however, they are not able to overcome their social phobia by their own.
None of the above features characterize introverted people, obviously.
Based on the above we can see, that social anxiety is a more serious issue than being “just” introverted. Those suffering from phobia face fear, distrust and discomfort, and experience that their mood always depends on other people or the environment.
In conclusion, the major differences are:
Introverted personality type:
- can be considered as an innate personality trait,
- not afraid of criticism or negative judgment,
- do not reject socialization, if ’recharging’ can be carried out by being alone for a while;
- do not need treatment,
- no need to improve or amend introversion
- can be considered as a personality disorder,
- fear of unveiling and that something negative happens,
- scare of judgment from the outside world,
- leads to isolation,
- needs treatment by all means
Finally, it is vital to emphasize that there is help in case of suffering from social anxiety. Medication may relieve current symptoms, and therapy offers long-term solutions and results.
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