Can An Extrovert Have Social Anxiety? (And What To Do About It)
Extroverts typically enjoy being around other people and derive a lot of pleasure from socializing. However, some extroverts may feel anxious or uncomfortable in social situations. This can be due to several factors and is not necessarily indicative of a personality disorder. Social anxiety is a common issue that can affect anyone, regardless of personality type. If you are an extrovert who is struggling with social anxiety, know that there are steps you can take to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
How Is It Possible For Extroverts To Have Social Anxiety?
There are several factors that could potentially be at play when an extrovert experiences social anxiety.
- Brain Chemistry - A difference in brain chemistry could be one explanation for why some extroverts experience social anxiety. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood and social interactions. People with social anxiety tend to have lower levels of serotonin. So it's possible that extroverts with social anxiety simply have a difference in brain chemistry that makes them more prone to anxiety.
- Big and Little Traumas - It's also possible that social anxiety stems from big or small traumas experienced in the past. Whether it's due to getting teased at school, or being raised by emotionally immature parents, we all have our traumas, no matter how big or small. If you grew up in a household that was constantly chaotic, or even if you just experienced an incredibly embarrassing moment, those experiences could all potentially contribute to social anxiety later in life.
- Genetics - Recent studies have shown that when a child's parent of the same sex has an anxiety disorder, the child is more likely to have an anxiety disorder themselves. This is just one of what could potentially be numerous genetic markers that influence a person's mental health and lead an otherwise extroverted person to feel social anxiety.
- Epigenetics - In his best-selling book It Didn't Start With You, author Mark Wolynn explains that the cells that would eventually become part of our body were already present in our mother when she was in her mother's belly during pregnancy. This means that our cells contain a record not only of our own mother's trauma but also, at the very least, our grandmother's trauma as well (not to mention the reflections of past traumas she herself would be carrying). This is what's known as epigenetics, and it's one more potential explanation for how social anxiety could be passed down through generations.
How To Manage Social Anxiety If You're An Extrovert
The good news is that, no matter what the cause of your social anxiety is, there are things you can do to manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.
- Therapy - Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that has been shown to be effective in treating social anxiety. In CBT, you work with a therapist to identify and challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute to your anxiety. You also practice confronting your fears through exposure exercises
- Self Development - Although working with a qualified professional remains the best option for overcoming social anxiety, if you're not ready to actively participate in therapy, or find the cost too limiting, books are a fantastic way to gain new knowledge, build greater self-awareness, and develop better coping mechanisms for anxiety. Two great resources on anxiety are Dr. Barry's Anxiety And Panic, which offers CBT-based advice, and Irvin Yalom's Starting At The Sun, a fascinating book that looks at anxiety as the product of a universally subconscious fear of death.
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction - Developed by molecular biologist and spiritual teacher Jon Kabat Zinn, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a type of meditation that has been shown to help manage anxiety. MBSR focuses on the practice of bringing presence to the present and being self-reflective about your mind's unique process of thinking. Studies have shown that MBSR decreases social anxiety, depression, rumination, and state anxiety, as well as increases self-esteem. Although there are numerous books available on MBSR, Jon Kabat Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living remains the gold standard for both practitioners and educators.
Most importantly, it's vital to remember that although social anxiety can feel debilitating at times, it is a condition that you can manage, and you do not have to fight it alone. One of the great benefits of the age we live in is that there are more resources available, and more communities to turn to for support and guidance, than ever before.
So, if you're an extrovert struggling with social anxiety, know that with the right tools and support, you can overcome social anxiety and live a fulfilling and wonderfully extroverted life!