The difference between introversion and social anxiety

17 December 2021

Kylie Maddox Pidgeon is a Sydney based psychologist, who is also an introvert. The world needs more psychologists who are introverts, because there are some psychologists who are extraverts but appear to have little real-world understanding of introverts. To put it mildly. One once told me I needed to be more outgoing, because I seemed to be too reserved. Thanks for that.

Kylie is a psychologist, academic and introvert. I met Kylie playing netball in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales and I wouldn’t have guessed she was an introvert. She loves socialising and sparks with energy during conversation, but she says if she overdoes it, she feels drained and can experience headaches.

My favourite analogy when explaining introversion is to suggest introverts have a constantly playing media device in their minds. There’s times we’re able to turn down the volume, say for the first hour or two of a social gathering, but as time passes the volume from our in-built media device begin increasing, as the ceaseless thoughts cascading through our minds begin competing for attention. At some point we need to get away, to somewhere quiet, to make sense of this almost subconscious brainstorming.

But instead of being recognised as an introvert, our sometimes reserved demeanour can be mistaken for social anxiety. Although something else entirely, there is a link between introversion and social anxiety, but as Maddox Pidgeon points out, there is a key difference. Social anxiety occurs when a person is worried about what others will think of them. That’s generally not the case for introverts. If they’ve had enough of being at a party and want to leave, they won’t be concerned at what anyone thinks.

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