Okay, so lately I’ve noticed a lot of people on the internet (and possibly people in other non-internet related places that would require me leaving my house to observe) talking about “introverts.” I use air quotes here, because I get the feeling that these people can’t tell the difference between being introverted and having social anxiety.
Now, all in all, what I’m about to explain here isn’t super important, but it holds a personal meaning to me. Plus, if you have a friend or family member that’s relatively reserved, or are yourself fairly reserved, this definition of terms could really help you understand them/yourself a little better.
Lets get started with what it actually means to be an introvert as opposed to an extrovert.
Actually, it might be better to get started by defining “stress.” Which is really just a handy word to understand in modern society. Mental stress is simply a psychological exhaustion that is obtained from exerting mental effort, thinking about complicated things, getting excited about something, empathizing with people, using willpower to overcome fear/do things you really don’t want to do, and basically everything else you can possibly do or not do will lead to stress buildup. Contrary to popular belief, things that you find fun do not necessarily get rid of stress (and can often create it), and things that you find boring or tedious don’t necessarily create stress. For example, watching a horror movie or riding a roller coaster will probably be stressful, no matter how much you love it. (Though there are exceptions.) While having a genuinely productive day at work or physically exercising can actually reduce stress (as long as you take a nap or kick back on the couch afterwards.)
Oh, and just to be clear, stress is normal. It’s straight up impossible to live your life stress free. In fact, controlled amounts of stress are actually healthy. Think of it like physical fatigue; usually (but not always) a side effect of healthy activities, but get too much of it and you collapse on the floor in a puddle of salty water. (Sweat if it’s exercise, tears if it’s stress.)
Introverts and Extroverts
Back on topic, introverts are people who gain stress from social interactions, and lose stress when they’re alone. Extroverts are the opposite. That is the start and the end of it. Of course, if the majority of web-comics are to be believed there are three additional traits introverts carry. One: a dislike of large and boisterous parties. (Extroverts can still hate large gatherings of people, and introverts can love going to raves – they’ll just be mentally exhausted afterwards.) Two: a dislike of social interaction as a whole. (Human contact is required for humans to maintain their sanity. No, really. If you go too long without talking to other people, you will actually go diagnosably insane.) Three: an inherent shyness. (Introverts can be every bit as outgoing and confident as extroverts. Extroverts can be shy and prefer to keep things within a small circle of friends.)
Just to reiterate, introverts are people who gain stress from social interactions, and lose stress when they’re alone. Extroverts are the opposite. Anything beyond that is a stereotype, not a prerequisite.
Asocial, Antisocial, and Social Anxiety
Next up, asocial people. Asocial people are super rare, and they are people that genuinely don’t need any human contact. This doesn’t mean that they don’t desire it, or that they get less emotionally attached to others then non-asocial people do – and it definitely doesn’t mean that they care any less about the well being of others. It just means that they won’t go insane if socially isolated indefinitely. (They might still get bored though, and if they were close to people before their isolation they might worry about their well being. The well being of the friends/family/etc., I mean.) Again, these people are super rare, since human beings are a social species. (Any trait that might lead to an ancient human buggering off and trying to survive on their own has been thoroughly selected against throughout the generations. Mostly by getting eaten by large predators.)
Antisocial. A word that also gets used a lot on the internet, usually as a synonym for introvert or asocial. It is, in fact, a disorder. A very socially destructive disorder, usually involving being a jerk to just about everyone. So… yeah. Don’t call people antisocial, call them asocial. Unless they’re a jerk, in which case the word works quite well.
Finally, we have social anxiety. This can range anywhere from quirky shyness, to the full blown daily panic attacks of (the appropriately named) Social Anxiety Disorder. Basically, having social anxiety just means you become anxious when dealing with other people. (Although exactly how anxious varies from person to person and circumstance to circumstance.) It can be a part of their personality, a genetic disorder, or the result of a psychological trauma. It can improve (or worsen) depending on experiences, attitude, prescribed medication/supplements (self medication is a bad idea,) or the presence/absence of good professional help. Oh, and it is just as likely to affect an extrovert as it is to affect an introvert. It sucks a hell of a lot more to be an extrovert with social anxiety, though. You can’t relax when you’re with people, and you get stressed if you’re away from people. You’re screwed either way.
Aaand… that’s about it. Hopefully this helped you understand yourself and others a little better, and maybe it even lead to a personal revelation or two. Anyway, bye for now.
See you all next chapter.