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Extroverts are gregarious, out-going people who are the life of the party, life of the cubicle and life of the coffee shop. It’s easy for introverts to feel like the red-headed stepchildren of their exciting extrovert counterparts, but introverts have unique strengths that make them special. However, many times “introvert” is used to describe someone who is actually coping with social anxiety disorder. How are introversion and social anxiety disorder different?


Carl Jung, one of the most influential figures in the field of psychology, pioneered the terms introvert and extrovert in 1921 to describe the difference between people who are more connected to inner thoughts and feelings and people who are more connected to the world around them.


  • Enjoy time by themselves
  • Recharge by spending time alone
  • Are better at concentrating on a single task at a time
  • Love digging deep into topics or discussions
  • Are often known as being great listeners
  • Can be socially adept, but tire of parties and group outings where they need to interact with others for long periods of time

While introverts might seem like they would thrive behind the scenes, there are many introverts in high-profile positions. It’s not uncommon for CEOs, writers, artists, entertainers and even public speakers to be introverts.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Over time, introverts and people who are socially anxious have become synonymous with the same concept, despite the differences between the two. Social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, is an all-consuming fear of being humiliated in front of others. Depending on the severity of the anxiety someone experiences, routine activities like eating in public or talking to a cashier can be utterly overwhelming.

Many adults who are socially anxious experience blushing, shaking, sweating and nausea at the thought of attending social events. Social anxiety is not as simple as dreading family events or wishing you could stay home instead of attending the office happy hour. It’s pervasive and destructive if untreated.

The Difference Between Introversion and Social Anxiety

  • Introverts become introverts as a result of environmental and genetic factors. Social anxiety is not something that anyone is born with. Instead, it’s a learned behavior.
  • Socially anxious people believe that there is something wrong with them that will be exploited or mocked by others. The perceived problem might be a physical feature, a vocal tic or something else altogether.
  • Many adults with social anxiety also struggle with perfectionism and the idea that all social interactions are black or white. Either everyone will applaud your flawless social outing or you will be laughed at in a YouTube fail video for the rest of your life—there is often no in-between for people with social anxiety.

Are You Struggling with Social Anxiety? 

Of you are struggling with social anxiety or concerned that your introversion might be a bigger problem, you might need some professional help. Reach out to CBT Baltimore at 443-470-9815. We would love to help.