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.
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.