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Am I an Introvert or Could It be Social Anxiety?

Posted on 10 September, 2020 at 7:00

Written by Jessica Parker (August 2020)


Have you ever wondered if your Shyness or Introversion is a little out of the ordinary, perhaps a friend or family member has expressed some concern about your avoidance of certain social situations? Well you are not alone. Working in private practice I often see people, particularly young adults who are trying to find their place in the world, come in feeling distressed that being ‘introverted’ is affecting their work, family, and/or social lives.


So, what is the difference between being an Introvert and having social anxiety?

 

Well Introversion is a trait, meaning it is part of your inborn personality. Introverts simply prefer to unwind with more solo, often quiet activities. After attending a party or spending time in a large group of people, introverts often feel a need to recharge by spending time alone. There are lots of strengths and benefits to being an introvert.


However, if you feel that your choice to avoid certain social activities is more fear driven, then it could be social anxiety.


What is Social anxiety?


While many of us feel some anxiety from time to time, whether it be giving a big presentation or going for a job interview. Social anxiety involves intense fear and avoidance of certain social situations that interferes with daily routine, work, school, or other activities. These situations are often so distressing that you get anxious just thinking about them or go to great lengths to avoid them. Situations that are commonly feared by people with social anxiety include: Talking in front of others, attending parties, talking to strangers, eating in front of others, waiting in line, talking on the phone and speaking to people in authority.


The feared situation usually creates an immediate anxiety response. The symptoms of social anxiety include: Blushing, fast heartbeat, trembling, sweating, nausea, trouble catching your breath, dizziness and feeling that your mind has gone blank.

 

Signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder can include persistent:

  • Fear of situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself
  • Intense fear of talking with strangers
  • Fear that others will notice that you look anxious
  • Fear of physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment, such as blushing or sweating
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the centre of attention
  • Having anxiety in anticipation of a feared activity or event
  • Enduring a social situation with intense fear or anxiety
  • Spending time after a social situation analysing your performance and identifying flaws in your interactions
  • Expecting the worst possible consequences from a negative experience during a social situation

 

The good news is that psychotherapy has been shown to effectively treat social anxiety disorder. While the above is not to be a substitute for a professional psychological diagnosis, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms it may be useful to see a mental health professional who will create an individualised treatment plan to help you effectively cope with your anxiety.


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