Old Forum Message Archive > General Discussion

Introversion vs. social anxiety

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Feral:
ive been meaning to post something about this.  i remember first seeing the commercials for paxil, for "soical anxiety disorder," and sarcastically thinking "hey, my personality is a disorder!  and they have a pill for it!"  i get really creeped out and disgusted by the thought of someone trying to "fix" me with a drug.  i think what theyre trying to treat when they say "social anxiety disorder" is just severe shyness, but if you listen to the "symptoms" listed in the commercial, some of them sound a lot like normal introversion.  i wonder if the people who make it dont even know the difference! 
i think shyness can produce introverted behaviors by causing you to avoid social situations, but it doesnt produce introversion itself.  remove the shyness from a shy extrovert and they will become the life of the party as their temprement allows; remove the shyness from a shy introvert and theyll still be introverts, though maybe a little bit more functional socially.   making the distinction between shyness and introversion is still one of the most significant parts of the book to me.  i used to think there were pros and cons to being shy, and the pros were enough that i definately wouldnt want to give it up, but now i know most or all of those pros are actually introverted charicteristics, and the cons are from the shyness.  so shyness is not so great. 
But it is genetic and ive heard recently that they've found it may have something to do with a more active than "normal" amygdala in the brain, which is involved with things like agression, and in this case, fear.  apperantly a fear response is triggered more easily, maybe too easily, in a shy person so that things that are not threatening to your life, like raising your hand in class or asking someone for help finding a book or whatever nonetheless feels threatening.  My interpretation is that, as far as my brain is concerned, the lady behind the information desk may as well be a mountain lion crouched back there.  the anxiety and fear i feel is an honest to goodness fear/survival response, and no matter how many times you absurdly reassure me that "it's ok, she wont bite!" (i must have heard that line in its various forms a million times as a kid) im still going to be afraid, and not inclined to go anywhere near that cougar if i can at all help it.  (i find the knowledge of the genetic and biological basis of shyness to be reassuring )
Still, i dont think you should take a pill to fix a problem you have... it seems like an attempt to skip the personal growth that would come from the strspamle of dealing with the problem (i mean, sure some things require medication, but if we're talking about an aspect of your personality, i wouldn't count popping a pill to make it all go away as an acceptable means of dealing with a problem -- more like ignoring it)  if i can prevail against the fear and actually go up and talk to the dangerous animal/information lady, then thats a battle won and ill be better for it.  if theres an upside to "social anxiety" i think its that shy people have the oppertunity (and actually, the need) to develop a huge amount of courage, because everything you do involving other people (which is nearly everything in your life) will require a level of courage that other people dont have (i still lose way more battles than i win, but if i can ever develop that theoretical courage i think itll be great )  Maybe its the right thing for some people, but i still think the strspamle of having to deal with a big part of yourself, even if its a rather negative part, is more healthy than making it go away with a chemically induced illusion of confidence.  it smacks of "brave new world" to me, and im probably reading too much into it, but im still suspicious that those paxil people are just trying to turn us introverts into good little extroverts

innette:
It's true.. like any medication, you can have people wanting to be made "better" who really shouldn't be taking it in the first place.  Ideally, that's where the physician should come in to distinguish between what is a pathological condition, and what is just a normal personality trait, but obviously not every doctor knows the difference or can be bothered to make a distinction.
I think that there definitely is some overlap, though.  I mean, I don't know if a socially anxious extrovert would ever be considered to be introverted, except in the casual sense where a friend or relative might consider them "too introverted" or some common use, because they don't like to go out to parties or whatever.
On the other hand though, I imagine there must be a lot of naturally introverted people who, in response to circumstances in their formative years, have developed a social phobia based on their introverted personality.  I think I may be a borderline social phobic, because, beyond the natural introverted nature, I have a real fear of doing simple social tasks: phoning people, asking for help, etc etc.  The natural introverted response would be to prefer not to do these things, but the maladaptive response would be to actually want to do these things but feel unable to.  If, indeed, I could be considered a socially anxious person, I could tell you that in my anxiety has developed from years of condemning my introverted nature, always being told that it was wrong to want to be alone, being criticized by my peers for being a "loner", etc, so that I've built up this unrealistic expectation in my head that when I socialize I need to do so as an extroverted person would - and since I know that I can't live up to that, I get totally afraid of any encounter with unfamiliar people, knowing that, no matter how I act, I could find a way to criticize myself for not being social enough, and so avoid this stress by putting off these necessary social acts for as long as possible.
A note on Paxil.. I don't think you would ever become "extroverted" by taking it.  I think most SSRI antidepressants sort of increase positive introverted and extroverted behaviours in m ost people who take them, but you're never going to become something you're not, in the same way that a non-depressed person won't become manically happy or something as if they had taken a stimulant like cocaine.  I honestly think that a well-adjusted, contented introvert probably wouldn't see a big difference in mood or affect after taking Paxil or any other antidepressant.  Paxil won't make you want to socialize any more frequently, it'll just make you feel more comfortable doing it when you do want to.

Harry:
[I think I may be a borderline social phobic, because, beyond the natural introverted nature, I have a real fear of doing simple social tasks: phoning people, asking for help, etc etc.]..........Have you considered the real reason we [me too] hesitate to do these tasks is because of the stupid, insensitive response we sometimes get from other people that angers and upsets us. It's not us it's them. What's wrong with them? This has to be an inhibiting factor and than we turn around and say "oh, there must be something wrong with me, I'm socio-phobic.

kray863:
Harry,
me too.  Somedays it's worse than others.  Some days I cringe at the thought of picking up a phone to make a simple phone call.  I'm pretty sure if someone measured my vitals at this time, you would see a significant change in heart rate, blood pressure etc. etc.  But other days, I'm completely fine and at ease when making a phone call.  I see what you mean with the insensitivity, but why is that not a problem for everyone, why just us?
And I have to wonder, what is all this fear doing to my body?  Feral, I too have read about the increased fear response.  How healthy can this be to experience so much fear above and beyond the average person?   I wonder how many times a day I experience fear just in my average daily actiivities as compared to the extravert.    Do you think introverts are less healthy?  Die younger?  I wonder what the research on that says.  
It's very hard not to attribute fear and anxiety to insecurity.  But if this is a neurological difference, then insecurity is likely not the factor, even though sometimes that's what it feels like to me.  The study I read observed fear, overstimulation responses in children as young as 18 months.  Those children grew up to be introverted (they used the word inhibited) adults.
Innette, I think very few doctors, if any, have the knowledge to be able to differentiate between what is a pathological condition and a personality trait.  Possibly a psychiatrist, but not a doctor.  But I can tell you that even the psychologists I work with, really do not have much of a clue about this, nor do they spend much time losing sleep over it.  Personality traits are not their specialty.  DSM diagnoses and pathology, now that is their specialty and most everything that resembles a disorder will get lumped into a diagnosis.  It will be a very rare psychologist who would ever tell you that what you are experiencing is introversion, not social anxiety.  And if we can barely determine  the differences, how will they? 
The more I think about this, the more questions I have.        
 
 

Harry:
[Do you think introverts are less healthy? Die younger?]........Remember we are the tortoise and not the hare. We move along slowly and last a long longer. As far as health; outies have a more ravenous appetite for everything, food, alcohol, drugs, life in the fast lane etc, I would infer from that alone innies are healthier.

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