I think there is a common misconception that if you are an ‘extrovert’ you can’t have social anxiety, as the two concepts seem contradictory to one another. It is often thought that people with social anxiety never leave the house or socialise with anyone and although this can be true in some cases, in most it is not.
As a result of this people that have a ‘bubbly’ personality or have friends they regularly see don’t think they can possibly have social anxiety therefore they struggle with it for years on their own and are not able to seek help.
I struggled with this for years. I would never go to see any doctors in fear they wouldn’t believe me because I seemed so talkative. I would say to my friends ‘I’m so anxious about talking with people, I get so nervous’ and they would say ‘but you’re so outgoing?, You aren’t like that’ and so I never thought I was. But I am. Here’s the thing I think a lot of people forget… illnesses we have are not our actual personalities. The two often get mixed up, but it is important to separate them.
As a child I was so outgoing and confident, I could chat to anyone. However, in my teens and early twenties I developed a crippling fear of social situations, of not acting or talking in the right way. I would (and still do) avoid certain situations, I can’t bare the thought of giving presentations in university (it will literally keep me awake for nights before), although when I’m with my friends I’m loud and extremely talkative. However, even if I am like this it doesn’t mean I’m not constantly second guessing myself on the inside, and over analysing what I’ve said for weeks to come.
It is important to remember that event the most seemingly confident person in the room can also be the ones suffering with anxiety. I am a 22 year old student, so obviously having a social life is quite a big part of my life. I have lots of friends, I go out at the weekend to bars and clubs, and people see this half of me. What they don’t see is the nervousness I feel when I’m getting ready: deciding if it’s worth the anxiety to go out, the panicking in the car before entering a room full of people, the pep talks I have to give myself before I can walk into a crowded bar or club, the over analysing every word that comes out of my mouth and cringing at myself if I get nervous and say the wrong thing.
I want to highlight that it’s not just one type of person who can suffer from social anxiety, even the most outgoing person in the room can be second guessing their every word. Our illnesses and our personalities are not the same thing. It is possible to be both an extrovert and to suffer from social anxiety.