We often use the terms social anxiety and introversion as synonyms, as if they mean the same thing. Sure, some traits overlap between the two — shyness, nervousness in social situations, a desire to stay home — but they aren’t the same thing. And the pandemic has brought these issues to the forefront, with many people spending most of their time at home.
You may have gone your whole life thinking that you’re introverted without considering that it may be social anxiety instead. So, how do you tell if you have social anxiety or if you’re an introvert? If you pay attention to your behaviors and emotions, you can gain a better understanding of social anxiety versus introversion.
Both introverts and those with social anxiety tend to avoid social situations. However, the experience is different for the two.
An introvert prefers to stay in and enjoys their own company. When faced with a social situation, you likely handle it well and can engage in a conversation without an issue. For an anxious person, however, it’s a different experience.
When you have social anxiety, even a simple conversation can be intimidating. You likely spend the time over-analyzing what you’re saying, how you’re behaving, and wishing for it to be over. You may notice an increased heart rate or shortness of breath. Even after the conversation is over, you may pick it apart in your head and obsess over what you could have done better.
Recharging During Your Downtime
Introverts enjoy their alone time. When you socialize as an introvert, it may feel a bit draining. However, once you have time alone, you feel recharged and capable of handling another social event.
If you have social anxiety, however, alone time may not be as helpful. When you get through a social situation, you may not necessarily feel better once you’re alone. Instead of being refreshing, you spend your time worrying about the next social event.
The Places You Go
People with social anxiety can be selective about where they go. Whether it’s grocery shopping or grabbing a coffee, socially anxious people tend to find comfortable places and stick with them. It’s normal to find comfort in your favorite store or coffee shop.
However, if you panic at the thought of going somewhere else, it could be due to social anxiety. Conversely, an introvert likely wouldn’t feel as attached to certain places. Sure, you may have your preferences, but a change in the routine wouldn’t be a cause for panic or anxiety.
Drinking in Social Situations
It’s normal to grab a beer with a friend after work or have a few drinks on the weekend. Drinking alcohol is very common in social situations, and an introvert may enjoy having a few drinks to loosen up.
When you have social anxiety, drinking may feel more like a necessity. Alcohol helps us feel more relaxed, open, and less self-conscious in front of others. Because of these effects, people with social anxiety are more prone to rely on alcohol to get them through stressful situations.
How You Feel About Yourself
As an introvert, you are likely comfortable with yourself. Though you prefer to spend time alone, you feel confident with what you contribute to social situations. You don’t judge or obsess over things you’ve said or done.
If you have social anxiety, it may be a different story. Socially anxious people judge themselves constantly — what they say, do, and how they look to other people. Often, these self-judgments are negative and not entirely true.
If you feel that you are suffering from social anxiety, don’t hesitate to seek help. Social anxiety is very treatable, and you don’t have to live in fear of social situations. Many types of therapy, including CBT, EMDR, and prolonged exposure, can all be very helpful for treating social anxiety.
If you think you have social anxiety, seek therapy as a way to cope and move forward. If you would like to learn more about anxiety treatment at DC Metro Therapy, click here. And feel free to contact us for a free consultation to determine if we would be a good fit to work with you.