“No, I don’t want to attend the party tonight”, said Ram. “Why do you avoid weekend parties?” questions his friend, who always gets irked by his turn-offs for fun social gatherings. “Don’t you think it would energize you and give you relief after these long, hectic work days?” Ram nodded his head in disapproval and replied, “No, I would lose my energy in these fun gatherings.”
What do you conclude from the above short conversation? Does Ram avoid fun social settings because he is an introvert? Or perhaps he feels anxious? Or, on the neutral side, he is an introvert, therefore he is getting anxious? Well, introversion and social anxiety are often seen through the same lens. Basically, they are often paired together. But what is introversion or social anxiety? Do they occur together, are they the same, or are they completely different concepts? In this article, I will be helping you to explore both terms separately in order to help you answer the above-posed questions in a better fashion.
What is Introversion?
The term introversion was initially brought into the picture by a Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, in his personality type theory. In this theory, he described two opposite attitude types.
Attitude types refer to the individual way of connecting to the world, and it can be in two ways. One is directed towards the outside world, termed as extroversion and the other is in the direction of the inner self, which is introversion.
Individuals having the former type are termed extroverts. They gain their energy through interaction with the external world; they are more open and outgoing and prefer other people’s company in diversification. In contrast, the individuals with the latter type are directed towards their inner selves and gain energy from being in their own space. They care better about their inner experiences and are thoughtful, and imaginative.
However, the above explanation does not mean that humans can only possess one of the types exclusively. We all possess both types, but, one of them is always dominant in all of us making us belong to that attitude type only
So, Introversion is actually a personality type displaying some primary characteristics as follows-
- A person receives energy by being alone, hence preferring ‘me’ time more often.
- Social situations tend to drain their energy.
- They are quite reserved and usually choose to remain quiet.
- They speak as per the requirements, for example, when giving a presentation at work. And they would even do a great job at it. Just being an introvert doesn’t necessarily make one a bad performer in social situations.
- They choose more privacy as it’s more in their comfort zone.
- Since they are less engaged in interactions and social situations, it is not imperative that they are isolating themselves. It simply means they choose to set their limits according to their conveniences and needs.
- Prefer a few companies of friends
- They can be shy, although this cannot be generalized to all the introverts out there.
Types of Introverts
There are some basic types of introverts. They are:
- Social Introverts: These are the types of introverts who like to interact or spend time in smaller groups. They tend to lose their energy and feel exhausted on an emotional level after being in the company of people for quite a long period of time.
- Inhibited Introverts: These introverts are great observers. They consciously attend to every detail, analyze it, and then come to any conclusions. Hence, they don’t end up making hasty decisions. They do meticulous articulation and then implement any action. They abstain from opening up to others and stay reserved out of their preference. They give in to those whom they feel are worthy of their trust.
- Thinking Introverts: They are majorly regarded as creative. They have rich imaginations and are thoughtful and self-reflective. They contemplate all that they see or hear and have profound critical thinking.
- Anxious Introverts: These introverts are typical examples of introversion being paired with anxiety. These are the socially anxious, introverted individuals. They do choose independence for their personality type. Additionally, they also do so because they fear social situations. They realize their anxiety whenever they are in gatherings. Unlike other introverts, they have trouble socializing or performing among people, even when they feel so or when there is a clear requirement.
What is Social Anxiety?
Anxiety refers to an emotional state that initiates arousal and makes one tense over an anticipated problem. Anxiety is future-oriented by nature. Here, a person worries about upcoming problems or situations.
However, a little of the anxiety is crucial for the required arousal in order to perform to the best of our abilities. For example, a level of stress is necessary before an exam to be careful with our preparations so as to avoid the negative consequence of failing. Whereas, if the anxiety turns too exaggerated and uncontrollable that it significantly impairs healthy functioning and largely affects important areas of life like social, occupational, etc., it turns negative and is marked as a disorder.
People with anxiety fail to recognize the requisite line of anxiety, so they cross it. Therefore, they don’t understand the limit of how much worrying is healthy.
Social anxiety: In general terms, it is the irrational and intense anxiety or fear of social situations or settings where a person constantly worries about being criticized, judged, and being under close scrutiny. This leads to the avoidance of the majority of social situations, even if they desire to be a part of them, for example, parties, missing out on work, and also facing drastic difficulty in forming relationships, signifying severe social impairment. This ultimately hinders their performance, decreasing their work efficiency, causing trouble in their career and relationships, and when it finally causes disability in important areas of life, it becomes a disorder.
Physical and psychological symptoms of social anxiety
Physical: sweating, shaking, problems speaking, mind turning blank, increased and fast heart rate, the feeling of nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, etc.
Psychological: having too much anxiety while in a social scenario and before entering it, avoiding social settings, being tense about messing it up there and imagining the end results of being ridiculed, missing out on work, being highly self-conscious, and worrying about being noticed by others, etc.
Some general causes are as follows:
- Biological perspective: The disruption in the functioning of certain neurotransmitters, like decreased and increased activity of GABA and norepinephrine, is considered to be associated with the development of anxiety disorders. Additionally, the brain region amygdala (responsible for regulating emotions and emotional responses) tends to be highly active in anxious individuals, resulting in extravagant anxiety in social situations. As far as genes are concerned, there is evidence to suggest that anxiety disorders are inherited. A study suggests a 30%–40% heritability rate for social anxiety disorder (source: verywellmind).
- The behaviorist perspective: This view states that all behaviors (positive or negative) are learned from the environment. Likewise, anxiety is also a learned response. This can happen by having some negative or painful experience in social situations, for example, being drastically humiliated by the crowd while giving a speech. This one incident may later develop social anxiety in the person, as he or she would always associate social gatherings with that hurtful experience. Moreover, social anxiety can be caused by observing people in the environment. If, for example, your parents have the tendency to experience anxiety in social gatherings or they respond anxiously or fearfully to such situations, children are most likely to develop similar tendencies as they would also consider social situations as dreadful.
- Cognitive view: The cognitive perspective focuses on an individual’s thinking patterns and beliefs. According to this, disorders stem from maladaptive ways of processing information, negative thought patterns, and irrational beliefs. For example, if a person commits a single mistake, he or she would process this information so negatively that they might consider themselves worthless. People with social anxiety disorders always hold negative beliefs about the consequences of performing at a social event. They always feel that they have no control over the upcoming social situation. They have this thought pattern of exaggerating the threat associated with the particular situation and have a highly irrational negative self-evaluation.
- Negative childhood experiences: Early childhood traumas like abuse may result in several types of anxiety disorders. Harsh parental treatment or painful incidents may lead to the emergence of anxiety.
- Unhealthy home environment: A too-controlling or less-supportive home environment may lower the self-esteem of children. This in turn makes them feel vulnerable and less in control of any challenging situations, and they hence remain anxious.
Difference between introversion and social anxiety
After thoroughly examining both concepts separately, let’s examine their differences
|Since it’s a personality type, avoiding social situations is a choice. Introversion is your way.||It hinders a person from doing what he wants. Avoiding social situations is not a choice. Anxiety comes in your way.|
|People in solitude gain energy and feel peaceful.||People with anxiety do feel relaxed, but later regret not participating.|
|Introverts do not fear judgment from other people.||Socially anxious people always fear being judged.|
|Introverts interact less, as socialization is energy-consuming for them.||Socially anxious people do want to get involved. For example, a socially anxious person interested in politics would avoid interacting in any of these discussions, although he may want to put forth his or her viewpoints.|
|They do participate in and enjoy social activities when they desire to.||Socially anxious people never enjoy social activities.|
It can be inferred from the above discussions that being introverted and being socially anxious are two different things. An introvert may or may not be socially anxious, as it’s not one of the typical characteristics of their personality type. Hence, an extrovert is also likely to develop social anxiety, irrespective of its main quality of excessive interaction.
Introversion is not a weakness or a problem to be concerned about; nevertheless, social anxiety is clearly a matter to be considered carefully. Knowing someone having social anxiety, we can extend our helping hands by making them feel safe and not judged; having practical demands from them, e.g., making them interact among 2-3 people instead of expecting them to perform in front of a bunch of people; facilitating their conversations by helping them with initial introductions; motivating them through these present strengths; and finally, trying to refer them to some professional help.
References: medcircle.com, Wikipedia, verywellmind.