Other terms that get confused for SA
Social anxiety is often confused with terms such as shyness, introversion, a-sociality, and anti-sociality.
- Social anxiety disorder (SA or SAD) — a psychological disorder that causes impairment and significant destress in social situations.
- Shyness — natural feelings of discomfort or holding your guard high in unfamiliar situations.
- Introverted — exhaustion in social situations / requiring periods of alone-time to recharge.
- A-social — a lack of interest in others, boredom in social situations.
- Anti-social — disliking people, feelings of hatred in social situations.
- Anti-social personality disorder — a psychological disorder characterized by apathy, inability to feel another person’s pain, leading to sociopathic behaviors.
SA is often confused with shyness. Often people say “oh, they are just shy” about a person who is actually suffering from SA. Shyness is a natural and expected phenomenon that passes with time and familiarity. SA causes much more distress, and will not pass unless it is actively worked on, requiring medication, self-therapy, or professional therapy in order to function properly.
SA is also confused with introversion. While many people who suffer from SA are introverted, there’s also many who are extroverted. SA can be even more distressing for extroverts, who strongly desire to be in highly social environments, but their condition prevents them.
A-social is a highly misunderstood concept. While it’s possible for an a-social person to have SA, it’s not always the case. Being a-social is similar to being introverted, in the fact that it’s not a disorder but an integrated personality trait. But while an introvert is ‘exhausted’ in social settings, an a-social is ‘bored’ in social settings, which can both feel draining. They can still have high empathy and deep bonds with others, they just have different wants/needs.
Anti-social is distinct from ‘a-social’ in that the person does not feel uninterested by social situations, but actively turned off. Everyone has anti-social feelings to some degree — when we scream in our heads “I hate people!!!” or “screw the world!!!” Some people feel this way when they’re upset or overwhelmed, some people feel this way on a daily basis. The interesting part is that while introverts and a-socials isolate themselves on purpose, anti-socials tend to immerse themselves in social situations and then act out in passive-aggressive ways because they lack the ability to draw boundaries.
Anti-social personality disorder is a psychological disorder. It should never be confused with social anxiety disorder. People with anti-social personality disorder actually tend to come off as very charming and socially relaxed — this is because of their lack of empathy, their belief that they are “higher” than everyone else, and their complete disregard for how anybody else feels.