Some people are naturally socially. They love to talk to people, and they get excited about the idea of social interaction. But not everyone is that socially active. Many people dislike or struggle to be social for different reasons, and may describe those reasons using different terms.
Some of the most common of these terms are “introvert,” “shy,” and “socially anxious.” These terms can share similarities, but they mean very different things, and – for those that are trying to engage in more social experiences – they often need to be addressed in different ways.
What is an Introvert?
Introverts are individuals that prefer and benefit from settings that are calm, quiet, and generally alone or with one other person. Most people enjoy alone time once in a while (and some may erroneously also refer to themselves as introverts as a result), but true introverts are generally those that find that quiet time to be all they need and all they prefer to feel happy and content.
What is Shyness?
Shyness can affect both introverts and extroverts. It is the tendency to withdraw from people socially because of a fear of being judged, misunderstood, or struggling to interact. Many shy people are extroverts that get energy from social events, but prefer to watch and stay silent rather than actively engage. Introverts can be shy as well, especially if they feel uncomfortable with social gatherings.
Shyness has its roots in anxiety, and can develop into an anxiety disorder, but is not necessarily seen as a mental health condition. Many shy people still live very active and fulfilling social lives despite their shyness.
What is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety is a persistent, often severe fear of social interactions that causes a person ongoing distress. Like shyness, a person many have a fear of being judged or embarrassed. But unlike shyness, this fear can be debilitating, trigger at the idea of being social, and lead to outcomes like avoiding social gatherings or struggling to create meaningful friendships.
Social anxiety can affect both introverts and extroverts. There is even an argument to be made that social anxiety may be a bit more common in extroverts (or those that are more neutral) because introverts prefer to be alone and enjoy it, while those with social anxiety desire social situations but struggle with anxiety at the idea of them (though this point is debated).
How Does Someone Treat These Conditions?
Of the three (introversion, shyness, and social anxiety), only social anxiety is considered a mental health disorder. Introverts are generally very happy with their introversion, while shy people – although they share similar symptoms – are generally able to maintain very fulfilling friendships and pursue relationships. Those with social anxiety typically benefit from treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy as ways to build social confidence and address negative self talk.
Still, any time you’re faced with something you’d like to address, therapy can help. For example, if you feel like your shyness is preventing you from relationships, you could try individual relationship therapy. If you are an introvert that needs to adjust to a workplace that requires more social interaction, we can help you manage stress and learn to better control tension.
The purpose of therapy is to find improvement in all facets of your life when you’re finding yourself with any form of dissatisfaction. Learn more by contacting Long Island Counseling Services, today.