Scrolling through social media and various social platforms, one could be led to believe that the western world today is mostly extrovert-oriented, so any time an individual would rather choose to be alone than out socializing, the immediate assumption is, “well they must suffer from social anxiety.” The truth is introversion and social anxiety could not be more different.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE
Contrary to popular belief, an introvert can actually be very sociable and comfortable around people, however, the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is in the energy source.
Extroverts draw their energy by connecting with people. They feel recharged and energized when they are connecting with others, and if they are alone or isolated for too long they may begin to feel drained. Introverts on the other hand can also mingle and interact with others quite easily, however, they may be left feeling rather exhausted and drained after social interactions and events, and they then recharge and refresh by being on their own and taking some time for themselves. They also do not have the constant need to socialize and be around people and are quite happy to stay at home reading a book or having a one-on-one catch-up with a dear friend.
In other words, introversion is part of who the person is, and they can be completely comfortable with who they are. It does not cause them unnecessary distress, or stop them from living their best life.
Social anxiety on the other hand is not part of who the person is, but rather something that is in their way. It is something that causes overwhelming and sometimes debilitating stress. A person who struggles with social anxiety finds it extremely difficult to be in any social situation, even if that is simply conversing with others online, with a screen between them and the people on the other side. The mere act of considering commenting on a post could trigger physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, shaking and sweating. It is a crippling reaction that renders a person feeling helpless, powerless, and overwhelmed, and ultimately stops them from living to their full potential.
Let’s use a vacation as an example.
Amy is an introvert, and her idea of a perfect holiday would be a beautifully secluded hotel somewhere overlooking the ocean. Somewhere that is quiet, remote, and peaceful, where she will be left uninterrupted to read, catch up on her favorite series, and just be alone with her thoughts. Amy will call the hotel, make the reservation, and look forward to a quiet and peaceful getaway. On arrival, she will walk up to the reservations desk, check herself in, and be excited to finally relax and recharge over the next few days. When Amy is hungry, she will call for room service, or go down to the eating hall and enjoy a quiet meal alone. Some days she may decide to laze around the pool area with an ice-cold cocktail in her hand or relax in the sun while becoming completely lost in the pages of a fascinating book she is reading. When she is ready, she will retreat back to her room for more ‘me’ time. You see, Amy is an introvert and she is completely comfortable with who she is. She is able to function and interact with others when necessary but understands that she needs to recharge and be alone after busy social gatherings, and she is perfectly fine with that.
Now let’s look at Jane. Jane is also an introvert, but she also battles with severe social anxiety. She too would like to just get away for a few days, however, is totally fearful and anxious about calling the hotel and making the booking. The thought of speaking to someone over the phone fills her with dread, and she fears making a fool of herself and being judged and scrutinized by the person on the other end of the line. But let’s say that Jane finally musters up enough courage to call and make the reservation. When she finally arrives at the hotel, the mere thought of walking into the hotel to check herself in causes an overwhelming panic attack, and it takes her a good 45 minutes to finally calm herself and gather the courage to finally walk in. All the while her heart is racing, her palms are sweaty, and she is convinced that everyone can see how completely panicked she really is.
Once in the room, she stays hidden away and only orders room service, which is yet another monumental challenge.
By the time Jane leaves to return home, she is completely and utterly wiped out, emotional, exhausted, and overwhelmed, and the whole experience would have been hugely traumatic for her. Who are we kidding though, in reality, as much as a remote holiday in a secluded area is exactly what Jane wants and needs, it is unlikely she would actually get to the point of making the reservation in the first place, the anxiety and panic causing her to miss out on an otherwise well-deserved break.
You see, the two could not be more different. Now can extroverts and ambiverts struggle with social anxiety? Absolutely. I simply used an introvert in both cases to demonstrate the difference.
So what are the symptoms of social anxiety? Here are a few that could indicate that you, or someone you know, maybe struggling with social anxiety.
Is it possible to overcome social anxiety?
Absolutely! Contrary to what you may have been lead to believe, anxiety is not a life sentence, and it can be overcome. With the correct guidance and through a series of reliable processes, it is absolutely possible to overcome social anxiety and anxiety as a whole.
If you wish to learn more about how this is possible, then click here for more information