I have social anxiety (overall definition is that you become anxious, and sometimes fearful, of interacting with people or doing certain things due to an irrational fear of being negatively judged and/or criticized), but for the longest time ever I confused it with introversion. I figured that it was because of my being an introvert that I behaved certain ways, but it was actually a recent phenomenon where I discovered that probably half of who I am (if not more or less) is due to social anxiety.
From what I gather through quick internet research, there’s ‘general social anxiety’ where people become anxious around people in general, and then non-general anxiety disorder where people become anxious only when in groups (so won’t feel anxious around just one or two people). I think I fall in the latter category.
I find that my social anxiety is most evident when I’m in the classroom since I am a full time student and those typically are large groups with there always being a chance I’ll be in the spotlight. But I do find myself getting socially anxious outside of the classroom, like when I’m out with a bunch of people or having dinner with relatives. But, not always! If I’m with people I am familiar with, such as close friends or relatives I constantly see, then I’m quite comfortable with speaking up. In those situations, my introverted side is the only side that is apparent. For example, I won’t talk a lot, I’ll listen more, and I’ll still avoid the spotlight when in very large groups but not out of nervousness – just sheer dislike of being the center of attention.
However, if I’m with a group of people I don’t know very well, my social anxiety acts up (can social anxiety act up? Is it ‘comes out’? You get the idea). I’ve thought about it for quite some time, and I still have a little trouble separating my behaviors into the two categories of ‘social anxiety’ and ‘introversion’. Of course, in some cases it’s very easy to tell:
For instance, during classroom time if the teacher asks a question and I even THINK about answering it, my social anxiety doesn’t even creep up on me slowly it, it full on hits me like a truck to the face. I can feel my heartbeat up in my throat and pretty much reverberating throughout my whole body. It beats so fast and so hard I hear it in my ears and feel it in my fingertips. Speaking of which, my hands start to tremble a little and, depending on the temperature, get sweaty or clammy. My rational mind knows that it’s not a big deal and that I can just earn some participation points since no one else is raising his/her hands, but emotionally and physically I just CAN’T do it. Even if I know that the answer is correct, I still have a hard time going through with it and in the back of my mind I’m still afraid of being judged. Which.. makes no sense. Being negatively judged for getting an answer right?? I never delve too deep into the reasons why I don’t want to speak up in those moments, but I assume it’s along the lines of “I’m pretty sure this is the right answer, but what if by chance it’s wrong? Oh man, I’m going to get so negatively judged…”
Or a minor example: on the rare chance that Gamer wants to play a game with me or wants to watch me play a game, my social anxiety kicks in there too. Boy oh boy, I hate being watched doing something because of the whole being negatively judged. I get quite anxious when he suggests any of those things and pretty rattled like, “what if I mess up in the game? Oh, I just have to hope I play perfectly otherwise he’s going to (negatively) judge me.” On top of that, Gamer isn’t one to just openly throw out comforting words if I do mess up so it just worsens the whole “I’m being judged” feeling. It’s not even the normal “Boy, I sure hope I do well!” It’s such an irrational state of emotion I get like… it’s just a fucking game, come on haha.
Then on the other hand, I have moments where I don’t want to do something merely because I do not feel like it. I don’t feel anxious about it or anything, I just do not want to do it. Like on a Friday night I might bail on my friends because I don’t feel like socializing – not because I’m scared of anything.
But I have moments where I can’t differentiate where my behavior could fall under. Like I’ll come across an encounter and I don’t feel anxious, but rather… awkward? Once, I was walking my dog and saw two people up ahead just chilling. When I saw them, I changed my route and took a left turn down a different street instead of walking straight on as planned. I didn’t act with the feelings of “oh crap, there’s people. I’m getting anxious so I’m going to leave” nor was it an “I don’t feel like bumping into people today” type of mood. It was more like, “eh, I feel like this would be awkward so I’ll just go this way for now” type of feeling (it sounds weird, but I tend to be a little socially awkward from time to time so I think that’s why I thought that).
So things like that, I can’t tell where that would fall under. Would it be social anxiety? Since I wanted to avoid getting involved in an awkward situation? It makes sense. I didn’t feel anxious though like I do in some other situations, but perhaps I don’t always have to feel symptoms to have something be classified as acting under social anxiety…. But if that’s the case, then I wonder if there are other moments where I classified them as introverted behavior, but actually is social anxiety?
But for all I know, that is just a situational moment that had nothing to do with introversion or social anxiety and I’m just forcing my mind to somehow categorize all my behaviors because as much as I am a messy teen I do like to have everything organized. *big shrug*
Ah, it’s all so confusing and I can’t seem to wrap my head around it. I suppose one day it’ll become clear. Or maybe it won’t! Maybe I’ll forever live in a gray area of social anxiety and introversion which seems like a more normal route to accept myself as… But I am hitting a boring stage in my life so I might as well have something to ponder about and keep me entertained at nights in bed.*another big shrug*
If anyone knows anything more about social anxiety, I would love to hear about it! I’m still learning up on it and have yet to really talk to my doctor about it.
Good night everyone!