Extroverts With Social Anxiety: A Rare Sighting?

This article by Katie Tyrrell first appeared on eCounseling.com on February 1, 2021. I love sharing posts about personality and mental health, and I’m so happy to have the chance to share this one about how social anxiety affects extroverts. It reappears here with permission of eCounseling. If you’d like to read an article about introverts and social anxiety, you can click here.

Social anxiety occurs when a person experiences anxiety symptoms in social situations or large groups. It is commonly considered to be an issue for people who are more introverted by nature. An introverted person may be someone who prefers to be alone and stay away from groups. An extrovert is seen as someone who enjoys being around other people and socializing in groups. It would seem obvious that only an introvert would experience social anxiety due to their preference of being alone. But what about extroverts? Do they experience social anxiety? 

Extraversion vs. Intraversion

Extraversion is a personality trait commonly associated with outgoing, social, and loud people. Introversion personality traits are associated with people who are quiet, reserved, and often keeps to themselves. These two concepts are viewed as absolutes in modern society, meaning a person is either an introvert or an extrovert. But is that true?

While there are only two groups for extroverts and introverts, each person has varying characteristics within those categories. Extroversion traits are not universal! People who consider themselves extroverts may have different comfortability in social situations than other extroverts. 

The traits fall along a spectrum from the most outgoing or social person to a very isolated or reserved individual. People tend to lean towards extroversion or introversion and have varying degrees of comfortability in different social situations. It is common that people have tendencies that would be attributed to both extroversion and introversion.

Some facets of extroversion include being sociable, warm, assertive, active, excitement-seeking, and having positive emotionality. Every extrovert’s scores in these facets will vary and are important to note as they account for the differences in extrovert personalities. 

For example, a person may love going out to a party but hate public speaking. This person would likely score high on the sociable and excitement-seeking spectrum but lower on assertiveness. Another extrovert may feel completely at ease in front of a crowd but struggle to make conversation at a party.

One way to evaluate if you lean towards extroversion or introversion is to consider what brings you joy and energizes you. For example, if you prefer to go out for drinks with friends after a hard day at work and enjoy the social life, you may lean towards extroversion. If you prefer to go home and relax on the couch in comfy clothes, you may lean towards introversion. Everyone likely enjoys these activities at different times; however, this simplified example may help you determine which way you lean on the spectrum.

family cooking a meal together

What is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety is the fear of social situations usually associated with the fear of others’ judgment. Social anxiety disorder often leads to a person’s avoidance of social situations. When social situations are unavoidable, anxiety symptoms such as sweating, heart palpitations, shaking, or shortness of breath may occur. 

Social anxiety is a disorder that develops over time and is thought to result from environmental and genetic factors such as a bad social experience, early childhood trauma or family history of mental health issues. It is typically treated by seeking out a psychotherapist, with CBT [cognitive behavioral therapy] believed by many to be among the more effective treatments.

Extroverts with Social Anxiety

So, the question remains, do extroverts struggle with a social anxiety disorder? The answer is yes. Any person, regardless of personality traits, can develop a social anxiety disorder. Extrovert-leaning people tend to be drawn to social interactions more than introvert-leaning people; however, this does not keep them from developing anxiety in social situations.

While extroverts do struggle with social anxiety disorder, they may be less likely to develop social anxiety than introverts. Studies suggest that extroverted individuals are less likely to develop social anxiety disorder if they have high scores in the positive emotionality facet of extroversion. 

Positive emotionality is the tendency towards positive mood states such as happiness, excitement, confidence, and joy. This facet of extroversion is linked to lower levels of social anxiety and depression. Positive emotionality appears to be a protective factor reducing the risk of developing social anxiety.

Interestingly, extroverts tend to have higher positive emotionality levels, meaning they score higher on happiness assessments, positive social relationships, and emotional regulation than introverted individuals. These traits seem to serve as buffers guarding against social anxiety disorder.

How Common is It?

While it may be just as possible for extroverts to develop social anxiety disorders, it appears there are protective factors that extroverts possess more easily than introverted individuals. However, when social anxiety symptoms are present, they may be more debilitating for extroverts as they struggle to engage in the social environment. 

Social anxiety may interfere with the activities and events that bring extroverts pleasure, impacting their mental health more intensely than introverts. An introvert struggling with social anxiety can still engage in the reserved and quiet pastimes that bring them pleasure, despite the social anxiety struggles. 

It is not a rare sight for people with extroversion tendencies to experience a social anxiety disorder, though it is less likely than people with introversion tendencies. It seems more likely for people with introverted tendencies to experience social anxiety disorder exaggerated by their natural tendency for isolation.

About the author: Katie Tyrrell, MS, LPCC, is a licensed professional clinical counselor (LPCC). She has a passion for healing trauma using body-based somatic therapy. Katie believes that healing trauma and restoring physical and emotional health comes from healing the body and nervous system.

Featured image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Grief, Depression, and Healing through Gaming

I’ve read books that handle the topic of mental health extremely well, such as Eliza and Her Monsters. I’d dare say most of us have seem films or TV series, or read books, that touched us deeply and maybe even pushed us toward personal growth and healing. I’d never experienced that with a game before, though, until playing through Gris over the past couple weeks.

Gris is a single-player adventure game by indie developer Nomada Studio, where you play as “a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life.” The game is a “journey through sorrow,” and you help Gris “navigate her faded reality.” In addition to being the character’s name, gris means “gray” in Spanish and that reflects the gray world where you begin gameplay.

I bought Gris after it came up in my Rhetoric of Gaming class (a special topics course I’m taking during this semester of grad school). I expected to enjoy the game, knowing it has a beautiful soundtrack, stunning animation (it’s gorgeous even on my laptop that’s not designed for gaming), and frustration-free gameplay where you’re challenged by puzzles but not worried about running out of time or dying. I hadn’t expected it to move me to tears so many times or make me want to write about mental health.

I suspect one of the reasons Gris resonated so strongly with me is because of my interest in how people talk about mental health in everyday conversation and various forms of media. As my regular readers know, I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression since I was about 15, and I also lost a close friend to a car accident seven years ago. Gris pulled all those feelings of hurt, sorrow, and sadness up to the surface, punctuated them with moments of beauty and hope, and handled them with great care.

mild spoilers ahead

Grief, Depression, and Healing through Gaming | LikeAnAnchor.com

One of the things that stood out to me in particular about Gris is that they didn’t fall into the trap of oversimplifying grief and depression. It wasn’t a smooth, easy journey out of despair nor was it something that happened in an overly linear fashion. Most people don’t experience depression or grief as a moment of dull, faded, gray in their lives that grows gradually lighter and lighter until finally the world is set right again. It’s more like what happens in Gris as you travel steadily toward something hopeful and light and good, and you still go through cycles when the darkness comes back and seems ready to devour or choke you. But you do get through it, and even though the marks of when you fell apart are still there you are whole again.

end spoilers

I’d go so far as to say that playing Gris has the potential to be a healing experience, particularly for those who’ve struggled with depression and grief. While it’s no substitute for professional counseling and/or personal healing work, Gris is a powerful example of the potential that games–and art in general–have as a positive force in this world.

5 Tips for Coping With Year-End Stress

I probably don’t have to mention that 2020 has been a stressful year. We all know that at this point, and it’s not getting much better for a lot of people. Some have lost their jobs, some are fighting to keep their businesses open, and many are isolated from family during a time of year when they most want to gather together. Struggles with mental health issues like anxiety and depression are rising rapidly–even the CDC admits that social distancing and stay-at-home orders are related to a dramatic increase in mental health challenges, including an increase in the number of people “seriously considering suicide” (Czeisler, M. et al. “Mental Health, Substance Use, and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” August 14, 2020).

The purpose of this post is not to talk about how stressful 2020 is–we all know first-hand that this is the case. What I want to talk about is ways that we can cope with that stress as the year draws to a close. This is not an exhaustive list of tips for coping with stress. Rather, it’s a collection of ones that I’ve personally found helpful and/or which I’ve known helped other people. I hope you find something in here that is useful for you 🙂

1. Stop Isolating

Depending on your exact situation and government rulings in the location where you live, this recommendation is going to look quite different for different people. Human beings are social creatures–even the most introverted among us does not do well in prolonged isolation. We need positive human interaction to stay sane and healthy. The form those interactions take, though, can vary widely, especially with modern technology.

We often think of socializing something that needs to involve large groups of people, but there’s no reason to limit socializing to big events if you don’t think that’s practical or safe. Getting together with a friend for lunch (in places where restaurants are open) or inviting a couple people over for dinner can just as easily fill your need for socialization. If you’re lucky enough to live in the same house with at least one person that you like, you also have an option for socialization right there. Maybe you plan a day to spend doing something together, like bake a special meal for the two of you as my sister and I did this year for Thanksgiving.

If there are no opportunities for in-person interaction, take advantage of the options that technology offers for video and/or phone calls. My sister, cousin, and I have a Zoom meeting each week to chat and watch Netflix together (right now it’s Star Trek: The Original Series). If you don’t already know someone to meet with, there are groups online that you can join such as virtual book clubs. Whatever method you choose to break out of isolation, the key is to make sure you’re having some kind of positive interaction.

2. Unplug and Take Time

I feel like so often we get wrapped up in following the news, or stressing about whatever it is that most worries us, or pushing ourselves to go non-stop that we just wind ourselves tighter and tighter until something snaps. Before that “snap” happens, why not take a moment to step outside the franticness of modern life and take some time for yourself?

Our culture is fast-paced, and social media algorithms are designed to keep pulling you into ever more extreme versions of whatever it is you’re looking at. But we’re the ones who get to make decisions about what we do with our time, our eyes, our minds, and our feelings. We have the power to step away from all that and choose to do something more productive and less stressful with our time. Read a book, set aside time for prayer and Bible Study, do something creative, or click here and try one of these self-care tips.

You don’t need to hide under a rock and avoid everything going on in the world, but you do need to take time to care for yourself and do things that really matter. The world isn’t going to end if you get off social media for a week or if you ignore the news for a couple days over the weekend. You don’t actually have to listen to or internalize all the fear mongering, division spreading stuff that it’s so easy to find online, on the TV, and on the radio. There are better things we can do with our time. As I write those words, Toby Keith’s song “My List” just popped into my head. It was released as a single in 2002, shortly after a different national disaster, and I think it still has a relevant message today.

3. Breathe and Move

Breathing seems like a very simple thing. We do it automatically all day, every day. Most of us don’t notice or think about our breath unless breathing becomes difficult for some reason. Cultivating a deep, conscious breath practice, though, can be one of the best things we can do for our overall health, especially if it’s paired with some kind of an exercise practice.

My dad has done more research into this than I have, so I’ll share a couple of resources that he likes. He’s an advocate of the Wim Hoff Method and he’s also been recommending the book Breath: The New Science of a Lost Art by James Nestor (please note this is an affiliate link). You might want to check those out if this is a topic that interests you.

My own experiences with deep breathing come through cognitive behavioral therapy and yoga. CBT uses deep breathing as one method for managing anxiety (if you click here, I talk more about that in this post). In yoga, deep breathing is paired with physical movements to strengthen and balance breath, body, and mind. On that note, my favorite YouTube yoga teacher is offering a free 30-days of yoga series starting in January that is focused on conscious breath. Her annual 30 Day of Yoga program has become my favorite way to start a new year. You can click here to learn more or sign up for her 2021 “Breath” series.

Further reading: “Are Yoga and Meditation Okay For Christians?

4. Pick A Theme For Next Year

I won’t spend too much time on this point since I had a whole post on it last week (click here to read that). The basic idea is that you should toss New Year’s Resolutions out the window (they basically just set you up for failure since most of us know we’re not going to stick with them) and instead pick a “theme” or “intention” for the year. Themes are more vague and more adaptable than resolutions, and that means they’re something you’re more likely to stick with. They still push you in a positive direction, though, which is something we always want in personal growth.

Picking a theme like “Year of Health” or seasonal themes like “Winter of Self-Care” and “Spring of Connection” is a great way to set yourself up for a more positive year ahead. And having something to look forward to next year (especially something that we have some measure of control over) can make it easier to cope with end-of-the-year stress right now.

5. Talk with A Counselor

Mental health isn’t something to take lightly. I know from experience that it can be hard to ask for help with something that’s happening inside your own mind. Maybe you don’t think what you’re dealing “bad enough” to justify seeing a counselor, or you worry that you can’t afford to take time and resources away from other things, or you think others will judge you for going into therapy. But it really is okay to get help.

Trying to deal with a mental health issue on your own is rarely a good idea, especially if its become something that impacts your quality of life or overwhelms your thoughts. Please go get proper help from a therapist, counselor, or other psychology/medical professional. Click here to access Psychology Today’s directory of mental health professionals and find a therapist or psychiatrist near you. There are also online options that may be more affordable and/or more accessible, especially given the current situation with COVID-19.

I hope that you all find ways to end this year with peace and hope in your hearts. There are many reasons to be fearful and stressed, but we can still choose to keep living, loving, and hoping.

Featured image by David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Expressivist Writing Prompts for Therapeutic Journaling

My first semester in grad school studying for a Master’s in Rhetoric and Writing, I’m taking a class on writing pedagogies. One philosophy of teaching writing is called Expressivism. In one of the first articles we read on the subject, Richard Fulkerson said this: “Expressivists value writing that is about personal subjects, and such journal-keeping is an absolute essential. Another keynote for expressivists is the desire to have writing contain an interesting, credible, honest, and personal voice” (“Four Philosophies of Composition, 1997, p. 344). Expressivist writing is about self-discovery, personal voice, and self-expression.

When I first read about these writing philosophies, Expressivism made me a little uncomfortable. I like this kind of writing, but it feels like something that belongs in a therapy setting more than in a composition classroom. The more I’ve read about this theory, worked in the campus writing center, and talked with professors who teach composition, the more I’ve started rethinking how useful writing for yourself can be when learning to write for others.

For today’s post, though, I want to lean in to the therapy-like aspects of expressivist writing. I’ve often talked about the importance of journaling for INFJs (and other personality types as well) and recommended that regular journaling is good for helping sort-out your feelings and support your mental health. But one thing I haven’t talked about is what to write in your journals. Journaling is such a personal thing that it seemed presumptuous to suggest journaling topics. I’ve used writing prompts myself, though (more often for fiction, but also sometimes for journaling) and find them helpful, so this seemed like a good idea for a blog post.

How to Start Journaling

You don’t need a huge amount of time to try out journaling. Even 5 to 15 minutes is enough to get started. Many people recommend journaling every day, but while that’s a fantastic goal I often find that journaling a couple times a week is more realistic for me. It might take a while to figure out a schedule that works best for you, so don’t give up if you miss a couple days or feel like you’re “falling behind.” There isn’t really a wrong way to do this.

I like journaling by hand in cute notebooks but digital journaling is an option as well. If you do like writing on a phone, laptop, or computer, I recommend 4TheWords as an great platform to gamify the process and keep you motivated. It’s only $4 a month, there’s a 30-day free trial, and we’ll both get free crystals if you use my referral code VDAFM17786. I’m currently on a 819-day writing streak (and it lets you reserve days so you can take a break if you need to).

One more thing to mention: expressivist writing is a great tool for supporting your mental health, but it’s not a substitute for actual therapy. If you’re struggling with something, my advice is go see a therapist, counselor, or other psychology/medical professional. I can assure you from experience that trying to deal with a mental health issue on your own is not a good idea. Please go get proper help. Click here to access Psychology Today’s directory of mental health professionals and find a therapist or psychiatrist near you

10 Expressivist Prompts

Expressivist Writing Prompts for Therapeutic Journaling | LikeAnAnchor.com
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay
  1. What makes you feel alive?
  2. Remember a time when you felt at peace within yourself. Write about that feeling, what it meant to you, how you got there, etc.
  3. If you could be any type of animal, what would you choose and why?
  4. What was the last idea you had that you really wanted to share with someone else?
  5. If someone asked you for your favorite tips on coping with stress, what would you say?
  6. Which superpower would you like to have? Which one do you think you’d actually have based on your personality?
  7. If you could go on an adventure, what would it be and where? The sky isn’t the limit for this prompt–our world, the universe, and fiction are all fair game.
  8. What is one thing you wish other people knew about you?
  9. What childhood memories have stayed with you the strongest? How have they influenced who you are today?
  10. If you could meet any person–living or dead, real or fictional–who would it be and what would you talk about?

Some of these might seem more “creative” than “therapeutic” when you’re first reading through them. I think that it’s important, though, for helping ourselves relax and stay mentally healthy to take the time for creativity. We can’t do intense personal growth work all the time; we’d burn ourselves out. So I hope you’ll try out one of the silly ones like “Which animal would you be?” as well as the potentially more intense ones like “What do you wish other people knew about you?”

More Journaling Prompts

If my prompts don’t resonate with you, you’re looking for more prompts, or you’d like another perspective on expressive journaling, here are three more resource where you can find expressivist writing prompts.

PandemicProject

The Pandemic Project from the University of Texas at Austin offers a list of prompts to help you deal with feeling overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic. You can use them just for yourself, or anonymously share your writing with the research team. Here’s an example prompt:

For the next 5-10 minutes (or longer if you like), really let go and explore your deepest thoughts and feelings about the COVID-19 outbreak.

Expressive Wring Prompts

This collection of prompts from Duke University is organized by topic. Choose from categories like “Self-Love, “Introspection,” Creativity, “and “Uncertainty.” Here are a few examples of what you’ll find on this list:

Describe your famous alter ego. What would you be famous for? Where would you live? What would your style be? What would people know you as from a distance? How would you defy their expectations?

What is a mistake or failure you’ve had that you became thankful for?

Reflect on a time when you have overcome an obstacle, small or large.

105 Writing Prompts for Self-Reflection and Self-Discovery

This list comes from mental health advocate, writer and blogger Janine Ripper. Her extensive list of writing prompts could keep you busy writing for months if you fall in love with expressive writing. Here are a few examples:

In what ways have you grown as a person this year? What/who has influenced you? And what have you learned?

If you could relive an experience in your life, what would it be?

What are the 3 biggest distractions in your life at the moment, and how can you go about reducing them?

Have any prompts you’d like to share? Tips for starting and keeping up with a journal? Want to talk about your experience trying out some of these prompts? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Featured image credit: David Schwarzenberg from Pixabay

Maybe Quarantine’s Not The Problem. Maybe It’s Highlighting Things That Were Already Problems

I’m afraid this won’t be a very uplifting post. I do plan to end on a hopeful note, but I’m going to be talking about things that simply aren’t easy topics. These are some things I’ve been thinking about since the quarantine started, and I think it’s important to talk about them. I wanted to put that warning here, though, since I understand if you’re trying to avoid reading anything that might drag your mood down any further considering how much negativity we’re hearing right now.

Quarantine is being blamed for all kinds of things such as, “It’s ruining my life,” “It’s causing domestic violence,” “It’s making me hate my kids,” and “It’s causing a mental health crisis” (general examples, not actual quotes from anyone I know). Now, there’s no denying that the stress of a pandemic, and the changes resulting from efforts to stop the spread, are putting increased pressures on our lives. But maybe the quarantine isn’t causing all these issues. Maybe it’s making them so much worse that we’re finally noticing them on a wider scale.

It’s All About Me

One of the most disturbing things to come out of this quarantine (for me at least) is the realization that so many people don’t care about helping others if it inconveniences them. They don’t want to stay home because they feel healthy, and they don’t care that they could possibly spread the infection and lead to more deaths. “I have rights! If people weren’t so panicked they’d never have infringed on how I do things. It’s ridiculous that I have to stay home because other people are sick.”

This is so short-sighted I have a hard time wrapping my head around it. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that this coronavirus really has been blow out of proportion and is no more serious than the flu. Even if that were true (and the facts so far say it’s not), if you could save just one life by obeying the stay at home order why wouldn’t you want to do that? and also take reasonable precautions when you do go out to avoid becoming infected or carrying the illness to someone else? Read more

How Do You Hold on to Hope When You’re Fighting Anxiety and Depression?

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common mental illnesses, and they often occur together. Just because its relatively common, though, doesn’t make dealing with both feel any less weird. Exhibit A, this image I ran across on Pinterest:

It’s overly simplified, of course, to say “depression is when you don’t really care about anything” and “anxiety is when you care too much about everything.” Still, these comments capture part of how strange it feels to simultaneously (or alternately) deal with depression and anxiety. “Having both is staying in bed because you don’t want to go to school and then panicking because you don’t want to fail. Having both is wanting to go see your friends so you don’t lose them all, then staying home in bed because you don’t want to make the effort.”

Anxiety and depression are going to show up a bit different for everyone who struggles with them, but for me it’s like one day I’m on-edge, jittery, and so distracted by my inner anxiety monologue that I struggle to remember how things actually happened. Then the next day I feel like a weight’s pressing down on me snuffing out all motivation and hope. And some days, the smothering feeling is there but I’m also anxious about stuff I should care about and there’s this weird fight going on in my head. It’s exhausting.

Holding on to hope isn’t easy when you’re fighting a struggle inside your mind that tells you the worst could happen and there’s no point in trying to do anything about it. But we’re also not helpless victims of our own minds. We can change the patterns of our thoughts. We can choose to hold on to hope even when there seems no reason for it, and the easiest/best way to do this is with the Lord’s help.

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