Introversion and social anxiety overlap in a lot of ways, but the motivations for our actions come from different places.
Introverts enjoy solitude because it allows them to recharge their batteries after a long day of being drained with small talk and, well, people. Introverts don’t hate social interaction, they are reluctant to give away their energy to cheap gossip and worthless activities.
After only a few hours at work I begin to feel drained and frazzled. The noise, the interruptions, the lights, the meetings, all drain me to the point where I’m running on empty. I have no energy or concentration to be productive and this affects not only my work, but my home-life as I come home and just want to sit alone, in a dark room.
The socially anxious on the other hand enjoy solitude because it allows them to escape from social situations which may induce uncomfortable feelings, the threat of embarrassing yourself or even panic attacks. Social anxiety can lead to extreme avoidance of all situations that may trigger anxiety.
For me it was enclosed shopping centres, super markets, meetings, parties. Anyplace where there was lots of people and no escape. Any situation where the spotlight was on me, the fear of being found out as unworthy. My heart starts racing at the very thought of being at the front of a shopping queue with people waiting on me as I fumble my change.
(Thank you contactless payments, thank you online shopping).
Are there links between Introversion and Social Anxiety?
In my opinion there are links between introversion and social anxiety. I think there is a passive link in that by requiring more solitude and thus avoidance of all the parties and afterwork drinks can lead someone with a naturally anxious mind to develop anxieties about these situations.
What will happen? Who will be there? Will I end up alone looking like a loser? Will I embarrass myself?
This has been my experience. For a long time I used alcohol to get me through family functions, social occasions and hell, at home, just to get away from my own thoughts and worries. The problem with alcohol though is that while it can make these situations bearable, it makes anxiety worse in the long run.
What I’m about to say may be controversial, but I also believe that introversion can lead to low self-esteem which in turn impacts the socially anxious. In my case, I spent years feeling less-than, worthless, in the face of my peers who all seemed to relish the next party, going to work for 70 hours a week to get ahead, and spending their leisure time doing “fun” activities like sky diving. I felt inadequate. Unable to keep up.
One of the gifts of introversion is the power of insightful thought, but for me this has been a double edged sword, it has led me to years of soul searching; trying to find my one true passion to pursue as a career only to find the things I dream up leave me unfulfilled, which leads me to spend hours researching what is wrong with me. And as an introvert, these hours turn into days, into weeks as I go deep down the rabbit hole. Extroverts on the other hand probably wouldn’t give it a second thought, and move on to the next thing.
The result, anxiety. A feeling of unworthiness, being scared of being judged to be inadequate, a feeling that other people will notice how awkward, weird and stupid I am.
Ultimately I think if you are both an introvert and an anxious person, introversion can contribute to the building of social anxiety over time. Extroverts who suffer from social anxiety on the other hand, may not spend as much time worrying about their anxieties because they generally don’t dwell as much. It is our job to try and cure, or lessen the affects of social anxiety so that we can begin basking in the positive rays of introversion, of which there are many.
So we can be alone in solitude without agonising in the depths of our own failures. So we can enjoy meaningful social interaction without the anxiety and so we can go home, early via the back door preferably, to be alone again without worrying about how we messed up.