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What is the difference between an introvert and someone with social anxiety?
What is the difference between an introvert and someone with social anxiety? People often confuse being an introvert with social anxiety, otherwise known as social phobia.
Sometimes people use the words ‘shy’, ‘socially anxious’ and ‘introvert’ interchangeably. But they are two different things. In this video (above) I have a look at the differences between the two.
In a nutshell, introversion is a personality trait, whereas social anxiety (S.A) is a mental health disorder. I have always had an introverted personality, however I did also develop anxiety problems later in life. I have drawn lots of comics over the years, relating to both introversion and being socially anxious.
I didn’t have S.A when I was young, although I was always what you would call shy, well other people called me shy a lot, that’s for sure-they never shut up about it. But I didn’t feel the intense anxiety until I was in my teenage years.
I have always been an introvert though. I remember liking my own company, and would often choose to play by myself. Not that I didn’t have friends who I played with; I did. It’s just that I didn’t find it necessary to do so to the extent other kids did.
I remember playing by myself in the playground when I was very young. Some other kids used to laugh at me, but I was in my own little world. I was having a better time with myself than I would have been with them, so I just didn’t care too much what they thought.
I was never very keen on talking. A lot of subjects people talk about are just trivial and uninteresting and therefore it leaves me thinking, ‘what’s the point of talking about this?’. This can be particularly uncomfortable in a group of people, where the subject will often go into directions that leave me cold. The times I found I could talk more was with usually with one other person, where you are more in control of the topic of conversation.
This is another way introverts are different to people with S.A. An introvert can talk at length about subjects which are interesting to them. These usually are more deep topics, or topics which have the potential to be explored more in depth, rather than casual chit chat. An introvert hates small talk because it is just so uninteresting to them, and they struggle having to go through the motions of just talking for the sake of it.
A socially anxious person will also hate small talk though, but usually for other reasons. Their mind will be spinning with anxious negative thoughts, and they will be precluded from speaking because of fear of what others will think if they say it.
For example in the comic strip above, the introvert would hate the small talk aspect without feeling anxious about it, and the S.A person would be feeling anxious about talking, particularly if there is a chance that others can overhear them, such as other people getting their hair cut, or others waiting.
A true introvert is happy being an introvert. However, I don’t think anyone in the world is happy with S.A. It is a mental disorder that can affect every aspect of your life. As an example, I’ve made a video before about the problems I have had with S.A just walking down the street:
Hopefully I can fully eradicate my anxiety, but I will always be an introvert though. This is part of my personality, and it is annoying when people think that there is something wrong with me because of it, and try to change me into someone I’m not. An extrovert can’t change into an introvert, and vice versa.
I don’t try to change extroverts, so please don’t try to change me.