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Ask a Therapist: What’s the difference between social anxiety and being an introvert?

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Introversion tends to be a stable personality style; social anxiety can develop over time. In both cases people may limit social experiences, but for entirely different reasons.

Introverts generally have a preference for solitude or reflection. Introverts can find social situations draining rather than energizing. As a result, they may make the active choice to keep to themselves, given the opportunity.  

People with social anxiety may wish to be more social but are held back by a fear of judgement by others.  Most people can relate to feeling discomfort when they’re the centre of attention, for example when speaking or performing in front of a large group. People with social anxiety, however, feel this self-consciousness disproportionately. They may avoid social and performance situations for fear of being judged, embarrassed or humiliated. And, if they can’t avoid them, they experience extreme anxiety and distress, even panic attacks, in those situations.    

 

Social anxiety can lead people to hold back from social, romantic or career opportunities, whether in the day to day or in terms of broader life goals. People who experience very high levels of social anxiety, so that it causes a lot of distress and interferes with how they’d like to live their life, may have what’s called Social Anxiety Disorder. Social Anxiety Disorder can only be diagnosed by a licensed professional.

Care to learn more about social anxiety? We hosted a webinar with Kevin Frankish and our expert therapists here to answer all your questions:

ASK A THERAPIST SOCIAL ANXIETY - WEBINAR RECORDING

MindBeacon just launched a brand-new social anxiety program as part of our Therapist Guided Program. If you're ready to get started with therapy, visit us today here

Every month, our Ask a Therapist series answers your most pressing questions about mental health. Have a question you'd like answered by our therapists? Send us an e-mail at community@mindbeacon.com. We'd love to hear from you! 

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Stronger Minds content is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice, and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to establish a standard of care with a reader, you should always seek the advice of your mental health professional, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. If you think you may have a medical or mental health emergency, call your doctor, go to the nearest hospital emergency department, or call emergency services immediately. You should never disregard or delay seeking medical advice relating to treatment or standard of care because of information contained herein. Medical information changes constantly. Therefore the information herein should not be considered current, complete or exhaustive, nor should you rely on such information to recommend a course of treatment for you or any other individual. Reliance on any information provided herein is solely at your own risk.