Introverts vs. Extroverts
A case could be made that it can be challenging to be an introvert in an extroverted world.
Extroverts are the people who love to socialize, love to meet new people, love to kick around new ideas in brainstorming sessions, and love to be the first to arrive at a party and the last to leave. Granted, not everyone who is an extrovert is so completely outgoing all of the time.
But you can pretty easily tell an extrovert from an introvert.
Introverts tend to be less comfortable in social situations and quite happy to spend time alone. They can enjoy spending time with people but also find it to be extremely draining, and they can prefer quiet reflection to boisterous brainstorming. This tendency toward quietness and reflection sometimes means that introverts have smaller (but often tighter) friend groups, may be less outspoken at work and in other social situations, and may leave the party early (if they come at all).
Introvert or Socially Anxious?
There’s nothing wrong with being introverted, of course. Indeed, a person who recognizes that they are more introverted than those around them can generally find a way to protect the quiet time they need while fully engaging with their peers, friends, and family.
But for some people, interacting with other people—whether at work, at home, in social situations, or elsewhere—can seem nearly impossible. For these individuals, intense feelings of anxiety can make it difficult for them to function around anyone other than those closest to them.
When that is the case, the person in question may well be suffering from social anxiety disorder.
Struggling with Social Anxiety Disorder
As we have noted, a person with social anxiety is not merely introverted (and, of course, an introverted person does not necessarily have social anxiety disorder). Social anxiety causes feelings of intense worry, fear, or anxiousness when a person is in social situations. In fact, the feelings of anxiety often arise when they even contemplate having to be in such a situation.
Many people with social anxiety disorder are extremely self-conscious and worried that others around them are judging them harshly. They may feel that way even about people with whom they have had long, positive friendships or working relationships. The disorder makes it difficult for the sufferer to shake the sense that everyone is focused on their shortcomings. And that, of course, makes it all too easy for them to turn their own focus toward their perceived shortcomings.
A person who feels this way will, as a general rule, avoid events and situations in which they will encounter others. This can lead to friction in a work environment, frustration at home, and persistent loneliness because the person with social anxiety disorder struggles to make connections with others. Worse still, because they have trouble connecting, it can be easy for others to miss the signs of the disorder or mistake them instead for indicators of introversion—or even of a kind of standoffish churlishness.
This misapprehension can cause a person who is struggling to delay getting help—either because they don’t realize they need it or because they can’t overcome the anxiety itself in order to reach out to others.
What to Do If You Suspect Social Anxiety Disorder
If you have been experiencing the kinds of feelings we have described here, it is important that you have a conversation with a doctor and/or therapist to discuss your symptoms and possible approaches to treating them.
Social anxiety does not have to isolate you from those around you—your friends, family, coworkers, and others. Effective treatment can lessen your experience of anxiety, making it easier to participate in your daily activities and to thrive in the company of others.
We Can Help
At Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health, we understand that every individual is unique and their experience of anxiety—including social anxiety disorder—is their own. That is why we are committed to listening to you and creating a personalized treatment plan that will help get your anxiety under control.
Our team has the expertise and compassion necessary to build the right treatment plan for you. It may involve medication, therapy, or a combination of two. Our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment that is safe and effective—in both the short and the long term. Reaching out to Johnstown Heights Behavioral Health is the first step toward experiencing less anxiety and building better connections with others.