While both of these things can have similar symptoms, there is a distinct difference between introversion and social anxiety. As Scientific American noted, the two terms are almost always used interchangeably even though they are two completely different things. The fact of the matter is that these two conditions are not the same nor have they ever been the same. Introversion is a personality trait, whereas social anxiety is a self-generated condition.
The reason why we tend to conflate these two distinctly different cases is because of how much they have in common in their presentation. Among the things that they share are:
· The feeling of being mentally drained after spending time in a group of people or a crowd.
· Difficulty in interpersonal interaction.
· Continually cancelling plans so they don’t have to deal with people.
The overlap is usually what causes us to confuse one with the other and mislabel a psychological problem as a personality trait. So what exactly draws the line between introversion and social anxiety?
Defining a Problem
For us to figure out what the problem is, we need to define it. Luckily, we have a set of clear-cut rules outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-V). It states that the general feeling of fear or uneasiness when dealing with unfamiliar people or places is a key exhibition of the condition. This fear is thought to be linked to a fear of humiliating or embarrassing behavior in public. When placed in such a situation the subject develops an irrational panic attack, which they are fully aware is excessive and unwarranted. This leads to the subject avoiding the situations by staying away from new situations and interpersonal contact, withdrawing into themselves and becoming solitary. A qualifying factor of the condition is that the anxiety and avoidance impacts negatively on the subject’s ability to carry on a full and healthy life, cutting into their normal routine of buying office supplies and ability to function as an individual both in their private life and their work life as well. This particular disorder is not linked to any abuse of substances by the subject, since a similar situation may arise but that would fall under a separate category.
Introversion is Not a Disorder
While the abovementioned social anxiety is most definitely a problem with the functioning of a human being in a society, introversion is simply another personality trait. Psychology Today states that introverts are typically drained by social pursuits and need to recharge their tolerance before they can take part in those events again. This is where the point where social anxiety and introversion diverge. An introvert is social in their own way and while they may feel as though they are drained by social interaction, they don’t avoid those things because of the drain it puts on them. They tend to be detail-oriented and are energized by solitary pursuits. A positive aspect of the personality trait is how well they operate by themselves. It is possible to be an introvert with social anxiety, and that is even harder to spot since the disorder camouflages itself well with the introverted person’s existing personality traits.
Dealing with Social Anxiety
There’s no quick and easy fix for social
anxiety. It is a tough struggle for many people who suffer with it because of
how pervasive it has become in our day and age. Social anxiety can be dealt
with bit by bit, by using mindfulness and meditation in order to relax and find
one’s center. Setting up routines and lifestyle practices can help to minimize
anxiety, as the more someone performs something, the less likely it will be to
cause them undue stress. Each individual deals with stress in their own way and
different methods help with different people. The best way to find what suits a
person is for them to try as many methods of relaxation as possible in order to
find the one that works best for them. While many people self-diagnose, it is
important to see a professional regarding something like this since it could
mean making some life-changing decisions. No one should be ashamed to ask for