Do you find it difficult to be around people? You may be shy, an introvert, or socially anxious. These conditions or personality traits are used interchangeably but there are significant differences that can help you better adjust when it comes to being around people. You can ask yourself certain questions to figure out which of the three you’re experiencing. How do you feel about spending time by yourself? Does preferring solitude feel natural?
This is a preference for spending time alone. It is a personality trait. To be considered an introvert, you draw energy from within yourself. Introverts also look for solitary activities and like to relax by themselves. You’re likely an introvert if you have the following traits:
- Great listening skills
- Take time to make decisions
- Avoid confrontations
- Use artistic ways to process feelings
- Feel drained when social for too long
Introversion means that you don’t need to change to navigate the world but rather find ways to make it easier for yourself to be in social settings. Being an introvert can be rewarding and comes with greater sensitivity which can be a strength.
An introvert can be a people person but they struggle when over-exposed. Conversely, shyness comes from being uncomfortable in a new environment. Shyness and introversion aren’t mutually exclusive. They are just how your nature is concerning the people you’re surrounded by.
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Being shy means you’re afraid of being negatively perceived by others. This is especially common when you’re around new people. An introvert is someone with limited social energy but a shy person is just worried about what other people think of them. It’s entirely possible to be a shy introvert. However, you can stop being shy once you’re used to other people.
Shyness is the discomfort you feel when you don’t know what the people you’re around think of you. Once you get to know them, the shyness fades away. Getting over shyness may be necessary to help you better navigate a new workspace or school. If you find it extremely difficult or begin to have obsessive thoughts about how others perceive you, a talk with a mental health professional may be necessary.
This is a mental condition that can make life very difficult. This is a disorder where being social causes great distress, fear, and nervousness. You also don’t need to be in a social situation to feel anxious. The difference between shyness and introversion is that with shyness, it’s just a mild worry about others while introversion is preferring to be alone. Social anxiety is having no control over how you feel in social situations. When you go to a party or join a table of new coworkers during a lunch break, you start spiralling about every little thing you’re doing. You worry about how you’re dressed, or your hair, that they hate you, that you’re annoying them, or that they will reject you.
Social anxiety has the following signs:
- Anxious about embarrassing yourself
- Avoid interactions with everyone as much as possible
- Fixate on any mistakes you could make
- Overwhelmed with loneliness
- Frustrated that you can’t bond with people
Social anxiety can become a disorder that makes even basic social interactions like ordering food extremely difficult. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness, irritable bowel syndrome, sweating, chills, or blushing. It may need medical intervention because it can affect the quality of life. Sometimes social anxiety is a trauma response. It can also be caused by genetics or pre-existing depression. Treatments include cognitive behaviour therapy, anti-depressants, psychotherapy, and anti-anxiety medications. Mental Health: Pros And Cons Of Talk Therapy
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Avoidant personality disorder
Another subset of social anxiety includes avoidant personality disorder. This is a mental condition where social anxiety is a symptom along with isolation and insecurity. People with AVPD often feel like they’re unworthy of human attention and have low self-esteem. They end up avoiding relationships or meeting people.
This is characterised by:
- Feeling insecure all the time
- Avoiding social situations for fear of rejection
- Social anxiety
- Few close friends
- Extreme sensitivity to criticism and rejection
- Difficulty expressing emotions
- Fear of intimacy
Why you need to understand the difference
Having an awareness of why you are uncomfortable around other people helps you figure out whether you need more alone time, space to adjust, or mental health treatment. Being an introvert doesn’t mean you can’t experience these anxieties. But it can be harmful to your mental and social health to assume you’re shy or anxious when you have a mental disorder that can get worse.
When you leave social anxiety or AVPD untreated, it can lead to unhealthy social relationships and worsen depressive symptoms. It can also change how other people relate to you. For example, if you struggle in social situations because of anxiety, your work responsibilities can suffer and this can jeopardise your financial security.
One way to figure out what you may have is to see how you respond to an upcoming event. Do you need some time to yourself to charge up before attending? You’re an introvert. Do you feel scared because you won’t know many people but will be fine once you get used to them? You’re shy. Do you feel like you will ruin everything just by showing up and you were probably invited because they were being polite and no one wants you there? You’re probably socially anxious. 6 Things To Avoid Doing If You Have Anxiety
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