There is an unbelievable amount of confusion around the differences and similarities between introversion and social anxiety, or any form of anxiety for that matter. For better or for worse there just seems to be a lot of crossover between the two in terms of emotions and preference so I suppose the confusion is understandable. On @introverts.are.us I post a lot of content related to introversion (I mean, obviously) but also anxiety because I realized years ago that much of this community seems to relate to anxiety and other mental health related content. I even recently ran a poll on my Instagram Stories to see what percentage of this community suffered from mental health issues such as anxiety:
I mean, wow. 86% of the 2,284 who responded say they suffer from mental health symptoms. This only reaffirmed what I knew and felt all along; introverted people seem to have some predisposition or greater likelihood in some way to mental health issues. And according to a University of Northern Iowa graduate student research paper by Elizabeth A. Balder:
"Overall findings show introverts are more vulnerable than extroverts to depression and decreased mental well-being. Introverts are more likely to be compliant and have lower self-esteem than extroverts, and also have less social support than extroverts, which can be detrimental when experiencing depression. Western culture gives preference to extroverted individuals, which pressures introverts to attempt to change their personalities"
Here's the the main thing to keep in mind:
Introversion - a personality trait, likely from birth, which has a person feeling drained from social interactions and feeling the need to recharge after.
Anxiety - a mental health disorder that one is not born with and is usually developed through traumatic events
It does appear that many introverts due suffer from anxiety (and why would be a great future blog) but not all introverts have anxiety and likewise not all of those who have anxiety are introverts. Introverts do actually enjoy socializing (wait, what?!). Yes that's right. We just want it to be on our terms such as on subject matters we are interested in or comfortable with, with people we are comfortable with and in quantities that we are comfortable with. Social anxiety is pretty much the opposite where there is a fear or discomfort with being around people.
This chronic fear can actually lead to panic attacks and other erratic behaviors when it comes to anxiety but an introvert without this affliction would most likely simply just retreat into their shell a bit or be a listener or observer at said social event. And after the socializing the introvert can usually just engage in some alone time to recharge their social battery whereas someone with anxiety likely will not be able to do that without others means of support (medication, exercise, meditation etc.).
For those visually inclined to learn here are some enlightening cartoons by Eva Hill for the HuffPost: