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Extroverts Can Experience Social Anxiety, Too

While social anxiety is often thought to be something for the introverted among us—after all, they tend to be quiet and reserved—extroverts can experience social anxiety, too. In fact, introversion and extroversion are aspects of personality have no bearing on social anxiety. Social anxiety is an anxiety disorder, a mental health challenge that can be faced by anyone regardless of personality type. Therefore, extroverts can, indeed, experience social anxiety, too.

Why Extroverts Can Experience Social Anxiety

At its essence, social anxiety is the fear of being judged negatively by others. Social anxiety exists on a spectrum from shy to avoidant, and anyone experiencing social anxiety, be they introverted or extroverted, can fall anywhere on this spectrum.

How can extroverts experience social anxiety when they seem so outgoing and social? Find information and tips on extroverts and social anxiety here.Extroversion and introversion, on the other hand, have nothing at all to do with fear or anxiety. Instead, they are aspects of personality that involve one’s focus and source of energy. Introverts turn within, to their internal world of ideas and images. Their style is to take things in and to think to themselves. Processing life this this way gives them energy and happiness. Extroverts, in contrast, have an outward focus. They are energized by the external world of people and things.

Neither is better than the other; they are simply different. The do have one thing in common, though. Neither introversion nor extroversion has anything to do with whether someone experiences anxiety. Therefore, extroverts absolutely can experience social anxiety.

Social Anxiety and Being an Extrovert

Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, social anxiety can be agonizing. With social anxiety, our thoughts can race with thoughts of inadequacy. (I never say the right thing, I always make a fool of myself, I know I’ll put my foot in my mouth again, I just had what I thought was a good conversation, but now I see those people talking amongst themselves and are probably saying how ridiculous I am, etc.) and with fears of negative consequences of being who we are, saying what we say, or doing or not doing what we do or don’t do.

These anxious thoughts and emotions can be agonizing for an extrovert. By his or her very nature, an extrovert likes being around people, is focused on them, and is energized by them. An extrovert often jumps right in and, for a while, is the life of the party or the leader of the meeting. Then, the self-doubt and the fear and the anxiety and the worry hit. There he or she is, mingling among others, often talking and a center of some attention, when the negative self-talk begins.

Now his mind is racing, trying to keep up with what has been happening while simultaneously crying out in fear and anxiety. She begins watching others for signs of disapproval. Unfortunately, the human brain often manipulates things to find what it’s looking for, so the person living in fear of being judged finds evidence of this very thing. Now this extrovert, this person who focuses on the external world, has turned inward to the fear of being judged. This is how extroverts can experience social anxiety, too.

What to Do About Being an Extrovert Experiencing Social Anxiety

When you’re an extrovert experiencing social anxiety, it can be hard to know what to do because nothing feels right. Hiding from the world, while it may sound so very safe and appealing, goes against your nature. In fact, because extroverts need others to energize, hiding from the world can lead to exhaustion and depression.

On the other hand, when extroverts experience social anxiety, being among others increases symptoms of anxiety and becomes as difficult as hiding away. One way to deal with this is to face your anxious thoughts. Rather than stopping at social anxiety, boldly brush past it.

When you begin to over-analyze and inwardly agonize over every conversation, every look, every action, and every gesture, keep going, keep over-analyzing. Rather than stopping with the “what-ifs” and the negative self-talk, continue your thoughts. Go past ruminating over the bad things that social anxiety is telling you and analyze the other interactions, too. What went right? What was successful? What was enjoyable? Focus on those truths rather than anxiety’s opinions of what went wrong, what failed, and what was disastrous.

Yes, extroverts can experience social anxiety, too. Many of us do. But while extroversion is part of who you are, social anxiety is, instead, something you deal with. You can brush past social anxiety and continue to be your extroverted self.

You can also connect with Tanya J. Peterson on her website,Google+FacebookTwitterLinkedin and Pinterest.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

15 thoughts on “Extroverts Can Experience Social Anxiety, Too”

  1. I am 16 and I guess I kind of experience social anxiety. At first, I thought it would be impossible to have a social anxiety if you are extrovert (through google i found out i was wrong!) I decided to give my comment as well since I still dont understand what I have been experiencing for a while. (Mental problem is kind of like a taboo in my country so its really hard to find a psychologist near me)

    Im always in the “in” crowd but i dont really see myself as one of them. It kind of just happens that I get to be friends with the cool kids at school. Then when we get along together I will eventually feel like I dont like the people that Im with.
    (sorry for my grammar lol)

    1. Hi Heather,
      You and your comments are very welcome here. I’m glad you found us! You might find HealthyPlace.com (this blog is part of HealthyPlace) in general to be a helpful resource, especially given that it’s hard to find a psychologist where you are. Unfortunately, talking openly about mental health problems is taboo in many places, even in the US. That’s starting to change, which is great, but change never happens quickly!

      What you describe is actually very common. It’s common throughout life, and it’s especially part of being a teenager. You’re at a new place in life where you’re beginning to really develop your own identity and a sense of who you are. School and peers make up a big part of your world right now, so social connections are part of the process of finding your identity. Think of it as an exploration or even an adventure as you discover who you are and who you want to become. Anxiety, including social anxiety, is a natural part of the process (when it becomes so intense that it starts getting in the way of your ability to live your life the way you want to and to do what you have to do ever day, that’s when seeking help is very important; it can be in the form of articles and books if professional help isn’t possible). It’s also very natural to become friends with people/groups only to discover that you don’t like them and don’t want to be like them. It’s part of learning who you are. After going through this myself (and still going through it, although not as intensely), being a high school teacher and counselor and thus working with students your age who expressed very similar thoughts, and having two teenage kids, I can confidently say that not only are you not alone, but you are among the vast, vast majority. The thing is, almost everyone is worried that there’s something wrong with them for feeling this way, so they hide it. That means it looks like everyone but you has the friendship thing all figured out. They don’t! And they’re not supposed to yet. This is the developmental stage of teenagehood! So give yourself permission to accept who you are and to want to change friendships. It’s okay to be friends with people but not really feel a true connection with them, and at the same time it’s okay to seek out new friendships. (The exception, of course, is staying with a group of friends that make you uncomfortable because they are doing things that go against what’s important to you. If behaviors are dangerous, you can stop hanging out with them right away. After all, it’s not who you are, so it’s okay to move on.) Just know that there’s nothing wrong with you, and what you’re experiencing is very normal.

  2. Hello there!

    I am an extrovert with intermittent periods of social anxiety. I was about 20 years old when I fist experienced it. I basically felt like I was not myself, I would have a knot in my stomach when in social situations and even thinking about future social situations. This was perplexing because when I do not feel anxious or uncomfortable I am a funny, empathetic, life of the party type of person (other people’s words, not my own, not trying to toot my own horn). I am 26 now and it seems that for the most part I am fine but at times I will recede into these funks that vary in their severity. Most of the time it just takes an unexpected positive interaction and miraculously, I am back to my comfortable, jovial self. However recently the funks have been coming more frequently and lasting longer.

    I had been on medication since I was 21 and stopped a couple months ago so that might have something to do with it. A week and a half ago I started back up again. But my goal is to be mentally health without the assistance of pharmaceuticals. Its just so aggravating to know that this damn anxiety is keeping me from the thing I love most which is getting to know people and building relationships.

    Im aware this is a sparknotes version of a condition that is very complex and singular but I had been reading people’s comments on these forums and thought it was nigh time to leave one of my own. I guess what I am most curious about is whether or not people experience it the same way that is, intermittently, or if it is a constant thing for most.

    Best,
    Max

    1. Hi Max,

      Welcome to the comments. 🙂 Anxiety is quite personal. Some experience it intermittently, while others feel it almost constantly. Sometimes medication is necessary to regulate it, and other times it can be managed without it. It’s great that you asked about others’ experiences with anxiety. I’ll stop answering and leave it open to discussion from others!

    2. I get anxiety all the time. Getting a little better though. I am mostly an introvert. To feel better, I need to run. Sometimes longer miles such as 12-14. I am lucky.

    3. Holy shit Max, you’ve hit the nail on the head for me, and I am currently in a funk myself, and thats exactly what I call them…or a rutt. This would be the third time I’ve fallen into a funk in the last 3 years, my first one also being when I was 20. This being a time when I finally swallowed my pride and acknowledged I there wasn’t something right. I am soon turning 23.

      Before all this I always had moments of social anxiousness however when I finally was removed from the situation, I could shift my gears back a lot easier, not ruminate about it and get on with being my funny, intuitive and opinionated self (not my words either). In a way it was like I ignored I had an issue, or swept it under the rug. But I guess when I fell into my first funk, that is when it all caught up to me and grew into a more generalised lasting effect.

      When I have gotten back to my normal extroverted self post these funks, its such a good feeling, however the fear of of my anxious personality is always in the back of my mind with a voice saying “i could take you over at any time”. I call it (Amy). My emotional wellbeing determines how well I can manage her, but normally these funks I’ve fallen into have stemmed from a situation, in which I feel in such a vulnerable situation over an extended period of time that I can’t escape. For example the trigger of what I’m going through as the moment being when I was recently travelling.

      The intermittence of this and therefore comparison of when I’m anxious and insecure to my fun confident likeable self who doesn’t take life too seriously makes it so complex for me to deal with this. I’m often labelled as a ‘people person’ and having ‘the gift of the gab’ yet currently feel i am none of these. My experience holds me back from reaching things I have a lot of potential in and are normally second natured to me.

      So mate, definitely can relate i think, and would be willing to talk more about it. This is the first time I’ve ever made a post on a forum, that being because what you wrote is the first time I’ve ever considered the someone may be having a very similar experience of social anxiety to me.

      Cheers

    4. I guess today’s my lucky day. I’ve read a lot of social anxiety forums without ever commenting, but I feel the urge to actually leave a reply here since this is the first time I’ve come across not just one but TWO posts that really describe my situation.

      I’m 21, a soon-to-graduate university student, part time raging extrovert and part time socially anxious. I had my first funk when I was 18 which lasted about two months, after which it comes back every year or so for similar lengths of time. Much like you, outside these funky periods I’m very outgoing and funny – I tend to find myself at the centre of attention at most social situations firstly because I enjoy it to the extent that I basically get off on it, and also because people like to put me there.

      But as soon as the funk hits, my ability to hold conversations goes out the window and I begin to avoid social interactions altogether because they make me so anxious. At its worst, all the isolation and anxiety make me depressed and I question my own identity – who was that ball of fun, and where has he gone?

      I bounce back from each funk relatively quickly (~two months) and, weirdly, seem to come back even more extroverted than I was before the funk. I think I’ve managed to get out of these funks so far thanks to the nature of student life (you’re constantly surrounded by people) which means I’m forced to speak to people despite the crippling anxiety, and eventually I get rewired and return to my outgoing self.

      It’s quite telling that I’m experiencing a longer funk than usual at the moment, which happens to be at the end of my degree when I actually just don’t have to see many people at all. So I think being forced to be around people because of some commitment (a degree, a job) isn’t just good but NEEDED for getting out of these funks, and isolation is no good, especially for an extrovert.

      Max & Cooper, do you get out of these funks completely randomly or are there any triggers that jolt you back into being extroverted?

      1. Ed, your reaction to this seems exactly the same as mine when i read Max’s, so I’m glad you found it. Before i read this, i felt very much alone, down to the finest details, and after i read it made me feel less. I think social anxiety must be one of the hardest things to talk about.

        To answer your question, I can certainly say it’s a bit of both. Each time i’ve gotten out of a funk, it has been completely unpredictable and taken a lot of time. I certainly believe though there are subconscious triggers that have helped me such as trying to keep things simple, giving each day a purpose. I’ve also told myself that segregation isn’t the answer, and that it will make the rutt worst. BUt at the same time it’s so contradictory because i feel that making myself prone to anxious siutations through socialising, makes me feel like shit and depressed when things don’t go to plan as i ruminate. However, when things do randomly go well i get over excited and jump the gun thinking i’m myself again and forget how vulnerable i am. Basically for me personally i’ve sort of learn, that however long it takes to reach the bottom of the hole/ funk is however long it takes to get out. A problem i have that possibly you do too, it that i compare cold cooper to hot cooper when I’m anxious. When I’m anxious, I make myself more anxious by self assessing myself and comparing me to my natural performance, it almost sucks being able to correct myself socially, and actually being socially mature in my head. A lot of what I’m learning at the moment is about acceptance. In the past when Ive gotten out of a funk, i ignore what happened and live in hope i don’t have another one, enjoying the short term. From my most recent one which I’m working my way out of now, I’ve finally accepted that i need to accept and invest a lot more time in my anxiety to help me for the long term.

        Hope you see this Ed and it helps. I wish there was an email notification or something we could receive to know theres a response. Will keep my eye on the forum mate as always is healthy to be able to emotionally relate and empathise.

  3. I’m actually quite sure that this describes me. I love to be around people, but only people I trust. I feel uncomfortable with people I’m not friends with and always think of how I ridiculed myself, that everyone talks about me and laughs, every teacher either tells me that I have to change my attitude ‘I can’t do it’ or tell my parents that I’m making pressure because of the others. My dad always tells me that I’m very negative what belongs to myself, and I’m also a person that’s really sensitive, so I cry very easily. I always want to go to a psychologist, because it interests me to hear things about me I never realized and also, I want to know if I actually suffer from social anxiety, because I’m the most self-conscious person I’ve ever seen, well, even my handwriting analysis says that (ok, that was maybe irrelevant). I always want people to say something good about me, I want to ahow them that I’m capable of things, but that feeling just does not let me. I’m 16 a half and really want to know if I have social anxiety and if yes, what I should do. Thanks in advance:/

    1. Hello Sena,
      You seem to be very aware of yourself, and when it comes to any type of anxiety, that’s a very good thing. Being aware of who you are, what bothers you, what thoughts and emotions you have, etc. makes it easier to identify whether something is causing significant disruptions in your life. The things you describe can definitely be components of social anxiety, and they can also be bothersome thoughts/feelings/behaviors that are disruptive but fall short of social anxiety disorder. Mental health diagnoses are frustratingly complex! Social anxiety actually exists on a spectrum. You might find helpful information in this article: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2014/03/social-anxiety-a-spectrum-from-shy-to-avoidant/

      I think your thoughts of wanting to see a psychologist is a very good idea. Psychologists and other therapists/counselors can really help people sort out difficulties and come to understand them as well as what to do about them. Many schools have counselors; if yours does, stopping into his/her office could be a great start. People see counselors for many different reasons, and no one would have any idea why you are talking with the counselor.

      HealthyPlace has some psychological tests, including one for social anxiety: http://www.healthyplace.com/psychological-tests/social-anxiety-social-phobia-test/ Online tests aren’t official diagnostic tests, and the results aren’t a diagnosis (or the ruling out of one). Any online test is designed to help people narrow down their symptoms and experiences and to be used as a discussion tool with a professional. Think of these tests as part of the journey to finding answers rather than the answers themselves.

      Truly, you are already on the right track toward overcoming social anxiety, whether or not it is classified as a disorder (only in-person visits with a mental health professional can determine that). You are aware of some things that are causing you difficulties, you are curious about what, exactly, is going on, and you are actively seeking answers. While that doesn’t immediately end your anxiety, it’s the right path to doing just that. You’re already taking charge of yourself, so congratulate yourself!

  4. Yep…this is me.

    I am an extrovert, with the added difficulty of having ADHD, so sometimes I really do say and do dumb impulsive things that turn people off! It’s a terrible feeling. I’ve moved from a place that was small and very quiet (my introvert husband loved it there) but I had a tribe of people. I felt like I belonged. I’ve been in a new town for 3 and a half years, and while I have many aquaintences and a few friends I see from time to time, I have no tribe. I have no sense of belonging to a group or community, and I’m so lonely because of it.
    To make matters worse, I have terrible social anxiety! When I’m around unfamiliar people, I feel extremely uncomfortable and awkward. However, if you we’re a fly on the wall, and could observe me around strangers, and then follow me to a party where I had many longtime friends who I feel completely comfortable around, it would be like observing two entirely different people.
    In the former situation, I’d be tense, quiet, awkward, shy, and uncomfortable looking. In the latter, I’d be the most confident, loud, wise cracking, hootin’ and hollerin’ life of the party you’ve ever seen.
    I hate that I have to feel comfortable around people in order to feel free to be myself. It really sucks, and it’s keeping me from making the friends that I crave, because I’m so terrified of putting myself out there to new people.
    It’s f8&*ked paradox, is what it is!

    Glad I found this post. At least I know I’m not the only one.

    Cheers!

    1. Hello Ggirl27,

      You’re definitely not the only one, and I have a feeling many readers will relate to and appreciate what you shared. What’s the smallest number you need to feel like you have a tribe (great word for this concept, by the way)? Would you be happy starting with a tribe of two (you and another person with whom you develop a close friendship)? Or three? Or four? Knowing this can be a helpful starting point in building your tribe. If you feel content with a small number, you can grow comfortable there and gradually, and naturally through connections and activities, increase the size of your tribe. Just a thought! Good luck to you. It might be uncomfortable and difficult at times, but it’s possible!

  5. Dear Tanya Peterson

    I am an extrovert and have social anxiety
    Just like you discribed, i am getting depressed when locking myself up and getting very anxious when around people i have to interact with. Both are draining my life.
    I am in therapy though. Trying to care less about what others might think. And trying to accept and “float” trough the anxious feelings and sometimes even panic attacks.
    My question for you:
    While i am searching for stories and information about social anxiety, a lot of people say that it is treatable with therapy and medication. Now after one year of therapy I would like to try medication. What do you think about medication and what medication should I get prescibed.

    Simon

    1. Hi Simon,
      Being an extrovert with social anxiety is quite a challenge, isn’t it? Therapy definitely can be very helpful. So can medication. That said, everyone is so different which means that medication works differently for everyone. There isn’t one single medication that works great for everyone, and often it’s a matter of trial and error between you and your doctor in order to find the right one for you. Further complicating matters is that medication does work well for many people, but it doesn’t work well (or even has a reverse effect, making anxiety worse) for others. Because medication can work, it’s worth having a conversation with your doctor.

      I do agree with the people who tell you that social anxiety disorder is treatable. Sometimes it completely disappears. Other times, people can reduce it to the point where it’s nothing more than an annoyance that they can deal with with tools and strategies learned in therapy or gained with life experience. Therapy is typically very helpful for social anxiety.

      Keep doing what your doing, and perhaps even talk to your doctor about medication. And keep talking to people, reading information, etc. You’re on the right track to overcoming anxiety and panic!

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