14 Things Introverts With Social Anxiety Wish You Knew

Tina gets anxious when she explains to people what her job is. She’s a music journalist, and people never understand what that means. She knows they will ask her questions and look at her a bit funny. When her anxiety kicks in, she feels like she is no longer a part of this world — like everyone else exists but she is simply not there.

Rae’s social anxiety is more severe. Once, at a concert, she had a panic attack because of all the people around her. She was on the verge of tears and wanted to leave. Thankfully, her boyfriend shielded her from the crowd and hugged her until her fear subsided. Today, she has a tattoo of a woman in the shape of a tree. It reminds her that she can weather any storm of anxiety and will not break.

Ozzy thought social anxiety was always extreme like Rae’s. For the longest time, he didn’t realize he had mild social anxiety. He “freaks out mentally” when he has to interact with people he doesn’t know well. Making eye contact is a big deal, so he “avoids it like the plague.”

What Is Social Anxiety?

Many introverts like Tina, Rae, and Ozzy suffer from some form of social anxiety. However, it’s important to point out that introversion and social anxiety are not the same thing. Introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments, according to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. Introversion is likely a temperament you were born with, and it’s completely healthy.

Social anxiety is when you worry so much about being judged by others that it gets in the way of living your life. Although there is some evidence that anxiety is also genetic, for many people, it can be managed through cognitive behavioral therapy and a healthy lifestyle (more about that later). In the U.S., about 1 in 8 adults experience social anxiety in their lifetime.

However, because introverts tend to spend a lot of time alone, people often misinterpret this behavior as social anxiety, says Tiffany Chi of Joyable, an online social anxiety program. In reality, if an introvert decides to attend a party or strike up a conversation with a stranger, they may not feel nervous at all. You can be an introvert and socially anxious, but you can also be an introvert and not socially anxious. You can even be a socially anxious extrovert.

One thing’s for sure: Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, social anxiety can be excruciating.

What Introverts with Social Anxiety Wish You Knew

If you have social anxiety, you know the struggle is real. I asked members of the Introvert, Dear Facebook group what they wished other people understood about their anxiety. Here is what they said:

  1. “I’m not trying to be stuck up or disrespectful when I decline to go to your event.”
  2. “If I’m at your event, you are special to me because being an introvert and having social anxiety, I choose my battles.”
  3. “I am actually a very nice person and not closed off, rude, or mean. I am the complete opposite, but because I struggle with social anxiety, I seem awkward and disinterested. I wish people knew that I have so many thoughts going through my head when I am in a social setting. I worry about people liking me and if I am ‘good enough.’”
  4. “My social anxiety isn’t a self-esteem issue.”
  5. “Many of us wear poker faces and masks to get through social situations. I wish people knew how tiring that is.”
  6. “You can enjoy interacting with people on one level but still have it be uncomfortable and unpleasant at the same time.”
  7. “I’m okay talking to only one or two people. But, if our group becomes larger, I’m uncomfortable being singled out to contribute to the conversation. If you draw attention to me, I freeze up, stumble, and search for the right words. Inside I just want to die.”
  8. “I wish people would realize that ‘Nurse Me’ is not the same as ‘Off-Duty Me.’ Nurse Me has a task, a job, a niche. She is an almost entirely separate persona. At work, I greet and dose over 100 patients every day. The thought of dealing with that many people as Off-Duty Me makes me panic.”
  9. “If we make plans to spend time together, don’t show up with other people, especially not without asking me first. I will shut down.”
  10. “I wish people (especially my parents) understood that I don’t avoid people because I’m antisocial. I bring books to social events so I can hide. Likewise, I’m not ignoring you when I have my headphones in. Books and headphones are coping mechanisms that help me avoid a public panic attack.”
  11. “Social anxiety doesn’t always equate with quietness or shyness. I tend to overcompensate by participating—and it comes out all awkward. I abhor the idea of being misunderstood or misjudged, so I explain further and it becomes overwhelming, frustrating, and humiliating. I never leave a social situation without regretting something I said.”
  12. “It’s not a choice to have anxiety. Telling me, calm down, don’t worry about it, don’t stress, doesn’t help at all. It only shows me that you aren’t taking my anxiety seriously. Anxiety is real, and panic attacks are terribly embarrassing and scary.”
  13. “I wish I could tell others about my social anxiety but I haven’t. If I break plans last-minute because ‘I’m not feeling well,’ it means I’m pretty much frozen in fear on the bed and can’t manage enough to gather the strength to overcome this anxiety.”
  14. “I wish other people knew that social anxiety is not a switch that can be turned on and off with willpower.”

Is There Help for Social Anxiety?

Let’s face it, anxiety feels awful. Your palms might sweat, your heart might beat wildly, and you might feel nauseous and even dizzy. You may think, this is how my life will always be.

Sadly, many people don’t get help for their social anxiety because they mislabel it as introversion, says Chi. They see introversion as a fixed personality trait, so they think being anxious is just who they are.

But there’s good news. There are things you can do to manage — and possibly completely cure — your social anxiety:

  • Invest in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). According to the Social Anxiety Institute, CBT has been the only type of therapy proven effective in permanently alleviating anxiety disorders. CBT is “exposure” therapy; you gradually put yourself in situations that make you anxious in order to overcome your fear of them. For example, if you wanted to get over your fear of giving presentations, you might start by telling a story to a group of friends, then use your new-found confidence to tackle more difficult situations. Joyable offers online, coach-supported CBT.
  • Challenge your anxious thoughts. Everyone has an inner monologue of thoughts that affects their mood and energy. Tune in to those thoughts and start identifying the negative ones. Often, anxious people fall into a pattern called “fortune-telling,” which is when we predict the future (often expecting a negative consequence) even though we have no real evidence that the negative consequence will come true, says Chi. You might challenge your negative thoughts by thinking of all the past times you’ve done something and it’s gone well. For example, instead of: “This lunch will be a disaster. I’ll have nothing to talk about and no one will like me,” try a more realistic correction: “I usually make a good impression. Even if it doesn’t go perfectly, we’ll still take care of business and that’s what people will remember.” CBT can help you learn to challenge anxious thoughts.
  • Lack of sleep can exacerbate anxiety, so make sure to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Prioritize sleep over watching one more episode of your favorite Netflix show. Stick to a sleep schedule and create a comforting bedtime ritual. Avoid alcohol, big meals, and screen time before bed.
  • Find time to exercise every day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes. Exercise lowers your stress levels, improves your mood, and has the added bonus of improving your health.

If you’re someone who battles social anxiety, know that there are other people out there who struggle like you do. Take baby steps to make your life a little better today than it was yesterday — and celebrate each accomplishment, no matter how “small.” But above all, be kind to yourself.

Want to know if you have social anxiety? Joyable offers a free social anxiety test.

Did you enjoy this article? Sign up for our newsletters to get more stories like this.

Read this: How to Survive a Job Interview When You’re an Introvert With Crippling Social Anxiety


  • Priscilla says:

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Jenn! Especially point no.4 I have a friend (an extrovert) who keeps saying that social anxiety is tied with low self-esteem. It’s frustrating trying to explain it to her. On another note, Joyable looks promising 🙂 I’m going to check it out!

  • The being thought of as stuckup hits home for me. While I do have social anxiety with strangers its actually interacting with non household family and friends that really makes me anxious. I feel like they think I avoid them because I don’t care or I am stuck-up but its really that I care too much. Their opinions matter so much that it makes the thought of interacting with them overwhelming.

  • Stephen says:

    Excellent article and I can identify with nearly all points, but I don’t agree with CBT being of any use at all. ‘So you’re terrified of doing something? Simple, just do it’. ‘Wow, hadn’t thought of that – thanks’.

  • Eric T Reiss says:

    Excellent article Jenn! My experience as an INFJ and introvert who also happens to struggle with Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) has been a wonderfully painful journey. For years I believed “it was just who I was” until a difficult divorce and an incredible family therapist helped me to understand the difference between introversion and anxiety. Learning CBT and thought changing exercises changed my life and, along the way, taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible. Reading many of the posts and comments (on the Introvertdear FB page) it seems that I was not alone in mashing the gift of introversion with the curse of anxiety into the same lump of being. They are, as you point out, not the same animal. I would encourage anyone who believes they may suffer from the ravages of SAD to find a good therapist (not Psychiatrist) and explore CBT. It has been life changing for me and many others… Eric

    • Hayden Callaway says:

      My first thought after reading that CBT involves doing the very things that make you anxious was “nope”. But if there’s really a chance it could help permanently alleviate some of my social anxiety, I may have to give it a try. That’s reassuring to hear that it helped with yours! So tired of drinking being a requirement anytime that I have to be social.

  • This is an article my extroverted friends should read over and over again!

    I’ve always had trouble with challenging the thoughts because it’s a never-ending battle. I have so many of them, I eventually give up.

    I’m glad I decided to get therapy because I know it’ll help me. I just wish my original therapist would’ve gotten off her extroverted pedestal so she could’ve helped me. *rolls eyes*

  • Annie Holden says:

    I used to suffer from an anxiety disorder for about 15 years so I am very familiar with the horrible symptoms that anxiety & panic attack sufferers have to live with both physically & mentally. After spending countless hours of online research, going to specialists, online discussions & various medications I finally found great relief from my anxiety disorder which has calmed down dramatically over the past 18 months to the point I would now consider myself anxiety free. Ive written some tips for anxiety sufferers below:

    1. Take Valerian supplements. It is one of the best supplements for anxiety because it increases the availability of GABA in the brain. Valerian also helps with insomnia and is known to have very few side effects.

    2. Follow every step in the video & guide at:
    drhealthhelp*com/anxiety (obviously change the * for a dot as it won’t let me post links here). This will tackle the root of anxiety in a NATURAL way via the ’60 ss’. This is very important!

    3. Take up one of the following: tai chi, yoga or meditation (any other sport will also work). Not only will it boost serotonin in the brain through exercise but it will improve mental state due to offering yourself a distraction. While you are distracted for long periods of time your brain will even forget anxiety exists and so its important to do this for as long periods as possible.

    Try those three steps and hopefully you will get as much luck with getting rid of your anxiety as i did. Obviously regular exercise, certain diets (drink camomile tea) & losing weight etc will have a positive effect but you should try tackle the root cause of anxiety, and remain strong minded about it as you don’t have to suffer forever. Good luck <3