Is an introvert simply a person with social anxiety?

The short answer is: nope.

The slightly longer, but still interesting, answer follows.

4 Major Differences Between Introversion And Social Anxiety

1. Introversion Is A Personality Trait / Social Anxiety Is A Disorder

Introversion is a personality trait. Or more correctly, an overarching ‘big-five’ collection of mini personality traits. It’s biologically based and part of your inherent make-up.

Social anxiety disorder is a mental disorder classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Although you may be born with a predisposition to social anxiety, it’s learned through experiences and reinforced by avoidance of social situations.

Introversion is a biologically-based personality trait. Social anxiety disorder is learned through experiences and reinforced by avoidance of social situations.

2. Introversion Relates To Preference / Social Anxiety Relates To Fear

Introversion is marked by a preference for less stimulation – whether people, lights, noise, or other environmental inputs. Introverts are easily overstimulated and feel uncomfortable, irritable, and uneasy in high-stimulation environments. It’s about stimulation, not just about people.

Those at the far end of introversion have a screaming urge strong preference for low-stimulation environments. They may feel a compelling need for quiet, solitude, mental activities, and few social activities. It’s not unlike feeling excessively hot all the time, and always needing to turn the temperature down.

People with social anxiety fear social situations. The fear can be debilitating and may significantly interfere with their work, relationships, and quality of life. In fact social anxiety is also called social phobia, and it’s treated therapeutically in a similar way to other phobias.

Introverts feel uncomfortable, irritable, and uneasy in high-stimulation environments. People with social anxiety have a phobia of social situations.

3. Introversion Is About How I Feel / Social Anxiety Is About What People Think Of Me

When an introvert avoids a social situation, it’s so they don’t feel the discomfort of excessive stimulation. They may find the noise, lights, people, forced conversations, or combination makes them want to pluck out their own eyeball disturbing and unpleasant. It’s like a psychological/neurological version of ants crawling all over you.

When a socially anxious person avoids a social situation, it’s to do with fear of how they’ll be judged by others. They dread saying or doing something that will cause them embarrassment, humiliation, or rejection.

An introvert wants to avoid the discomfort of excessive stimulation. A socially anxious person is afraid of how they’ll be judged.

4. Introversion Does Not Need To Be Treated / Social Anxiety May Need To Be Treated

Introverts don’t need to be cured or sent away to introvert conversion camp or forced to come out of their shell. Being an introvert is simply a built-in aspect of personality.

Introverts can experiment to find the amount of stimulation that feels right. They can make decisions about how and when to recharge their introvert batteries, how to find balance between solitude and socialising, how to take pleasure in doing things alone, how to adapt to their individual level of introversion.

People with social anxiety disorder may choose to seek treatment if they’re suffering distress. If you think you may be socially anxious, please talk to your doctor. Seriously, make an appointment now.

Introverts don’t need to be cured or sent away to introvert conversion camp or forced to come out of their shell. People with social anxiety disorder may choose to seek treatment if they’re suffering distress.

Introvert Or Socially Anxious Person?

To illustrate the difference between introverts and socially anxious people, here are some things an introvert might say:

  • I avoid parties. They feel too loud and chaotic
  • I find large group gatherings extremely unpleasant
  • I’m so much happier at home, or having dinner with a close friend, or in a small group
  • I dislike having to come up with conversation on the fly – it feels fake to me.

Here are some things a person with social anxiety might say:

  • I’ll embarrass myself if I eat in public
  • If I speak to someone new then they will reject me
  • I’ll be humiliated and I won’t be able to cope
  • I’m very anxious about what people will think of me.

Which One Are You?

You may be an introvert. You may be suffering from social anxiety disorder. You may be both, or neither.

A Venn Diagram illustrates the possibilities.

introversion or social anxiety

The important thing to remember is that you can manage the discomfort of introversion through your choices.

But you should discuss how to treat social anxiety disorder with your doctor.


Resources

Social Anxiety Disorder Resources

If you know of quality resources for people with social anxiety, you’re welcome to share them in the comments.

Please stick to reputable sources – for example, government websites, major psychiatric or psychological organisations, and fact-checked publications.

Introvert Resources

Here at Louder Minds you’ll find plenty of strategies and inspiration for living a happy introvert life.

Just wander around, or start at the Introvert Resources page.

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