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  • Social Anxiety and Introversion: How to Tell Them Apart

    In our western world, extroversion is often revered and preferred. Because of this, people who are less extroverted, may wonder where they fit in the grand scheme of things. Oftentimes we use the word, “socially anxious” or “introverted” interchangeably. The reality is that these terms are distinct and are driven by totally different perspectives and preferences.

    Here are a few of the differences in each category as well as some

    Social anxiety is characterized by anxiety associated with social situations and how one may be perceived or judged by others. This means that somebody who is socially anxious may be trying their best to appease others in social situations when it is unavoidable, and may also avoid social situations at all costs. This can affect relationships as well as other important environments, such as work. Social anxiety, just like other forms of anxiety, can bring up many physical symptoms as well.

    Introverts may not necessarily feel anxiety in social situations. Someone who is introverted may be more sensitive to input from their environment, and may need more time to recover from the sense of being overstimulated by social environments. This means that a person who is introverted can be very talkative and social when with others, but once socializing time is done, they may need lots of time to decompress. They may even cut hang outs short, in order to avoid feeling depleted. Introverts typically need more time than average to “recharge”.

    So you may be wondering what to do  if your  loved one appears to fit into one or both categories. If your loved one is socially anxious, they may need reassurance and a slight push of encouragement to be able to feel supported in a social environment. They may often find themselves drawn to people who may help them navigate the waters of a social situation if they feel like they are overwhelmed.  In contrast, a loved one who is introverted enjoys being with others and enjoys the presence of their loved ones. However, they may choose to withdraw faster than others or reduce the frequency of their outings. It is important to remember that in both categories, the actions you see are not personal.

    Sometimes our loved ones simply need some extra time to recharge in order to be an even more present and loving person for you when you spend time together. Trying to criticize them or push them out of the shell, may backfire. Approaching someone you care about can include asking open-ended questions about preferences, as well as asking if they need support. Keeping an open mind can help you provide assistance if needed, such as with a person with social anxiety. It can also help you respect boundaries if you are working with introversion instead, and the introvert simply needs people to honor those boundaries.

    Overall, seeing someone who is “quiet” or more withdrawn may not indicate an issue. However, practicing active listening and keeping an open mind can help reduce assumptions.