3 Ways Introversion is Different from Social Anxiety
Introversion is often viewed as a negative trait or as something to be fixed. Often as well people confuse introversion with social anxiety, which makes light of the diagnosis and leads to a less serious view of the disorder. Although similar, introversion and social anxiety are very different.
1. Introversion is a Personality Trait
Although introversion carries similarities to social anxiety there are important differences. One of which is that introversion is a personality trait that is described as:
“…getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act. Ideas are almost solid things for me. Sometimes I like the idea of something better than the real thing.” (the Myers & Briggs Foundation)
Coined by Carl Jung, the term introversion is used on the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and with extraversion, is one of the psychological personality pairs on the test. In fact introversion and extraversion are on a spectrum, which means some people are more introverted than extroverted, some people land in the middle (called ambiversion), and some people are more extroverted than introverted. Very rarely is someone only introverted or extroverted. You should know that both extraversion and introversion are healthy variations in personality style.
Although social anxiety has variations ranging from mild to moderate to severe, the person would still have a social anxiety diagnosis regardless of severity. Whereas with introversion vs. extraversion you are either more inclined to one, the other, or in the middle.
2. Solitude is a (Necessary) Choice
Introversion has a series of common behaviors among people who subscribe to this personality trait. For example, an introvert is someone who focuses on their inner world and is usually very sensitive to environmental stimuli. Therefore they can be easily overstimulated and may experience sensory overload if they expend too much energy on the outside world by being outside or focusing on others. For that reason, introverts need to spend time alone to ‘recharge’. As well as becoming overwhelmed, they may experience emotional lowness, stress, or anxiety when they feel pressured to interact when they don’t wish to or when they cannot find time to be alone. Socializing is part of normal human behavior and prevents feelings of loneliness which are detrimental to your health. Introverts do socialize, but they need solitude.
With social anxiety, however, people experience intense fear of social interaction and judgment that manifests in emotional and physical symptoms. Even the thought of social activity whether it would take place in a few days or few weeks causes them distress. Therefore they practice avoidance from all social activities, to the point where their lives are disrupted in their school, work, mental, and physical health.
3. Introversion has Characteristics…
But social anxiety has symptoms.
As I’ve stated before introversion is a trait and people who identify as introverts share common behaviors and needs. Social anxiety has common symptoms shared among its sufferers however, it has specific criteria that require a diagnosis because it is an illness.
For example, a common emotional symptom is excessive self-consciousness in regular social situations. Like introversion, social anxiety leads a person to focus inward on themselves and their behavior. However unlike introversion, social anxiety causes constant thinking about how others see them. In other words, they are afraid that they will embarrass themselves. This leads to extreme worry about social events days, weeks, or even months before the scheduled day. There are also physical symptoms such as shortness of breath, upset stomach, feeling faint. These are also symptoms of a panic attack.
There are many more symptoms of social anxiety. Therefore I’ve listed here a more comprehensive list of symptoms as well as methods of self-calming as chronic stress can cause damage to your body and mind.
4. Social Anxiety Needs a Diagnosis
If you’re interested you can easily figure out where you fall on the a spectrum by taking the Myers-Briggs Test. To determine whether you have social anxiety or not, however, is a little more complicated. Throughout this article I have repeated that social anxiety is a mental illness. As such social anxiety can only be diagnosed by a certified mental health professional. Please don’t go on WebMD and self-diagnose. If you experience any of these symptoms I have detailed and you are concerned, please see your doctor for an evaluation.
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