What is Introverted Anxiety?

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Not all introverts suffer from anxiety and extroverts are just as likely to struggle with the mental health condition. Yet, introverts are more likely to suffer from anxiety.

When people experience introverted anxiety, they undergo two sets of symptoms. One set makes them feel better in situations where fewer stimuli are present – usually, in a quiet place away from people [1]. The other set brings on symptoms we often associate with anxiety – fear, worry, and nervousness [2].

In many cases of introverted anxiety, people are really suffering from a specific kind of illness known as “high-functioning anxiety” [3]. This is when a person appears to have normal mental health, but deep down are driven by fear.

People of this sort usually lead successful lives and often don’t realize they’re motivated through anxiety. This is partly due to the fact that people with high-functioning anxiety can’t be diagnosed.

Still, if an introvert experiencing high-functioning anxiety goes to a medical professional, they’ll most likely be diagnosed with a “generalized anxiety disorder”.

This article seeks to teach you about introverted anxiety and what you can do to better your mental health. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.

Types of Anxiety Disorders

Introverts and extroverts alike can suffer from three different anxiety disorders. If you are lead to believe you or someone you love is facing an anxiety disorder, it’s important to inform yourself of these.

By bettering your knowledge of a specific anxiety disorder, you can better your ability to treat the said disorder.

NOTE: This list leaves out two other diagnosable anxiety disorders; obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can visit these sections on our website for more information.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder

Also referred to as “GAD”, a generalized anxiety disorder is when a person feels an excessive amount of fear and distress more frequently than normal [4]. This worry will stem into a variety of life’s most prominent aspects, including:

  • Everyday routines
  • Personal health
  • Social interactions
  • Work

Symptoms for GAD include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty controlling emotions
  • Easily startled
  • Easily tired
  • Frequent bathroom use
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Muscle tension
  • Restlessness
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Trouble sleeping

People with a generalized-anxiety disorder have a tendency to over-think important situations, such as their job performance or finances. Teenagers who suffer from GAD still worry about similar responsibilities, but more so their social life.

It’s estimated that 2.7% of American adults suffer from GAD and, with that, it’s the most common anxiety diagnosis for introverts [5].

Panic Disorder

People with panic disorder suffer from constant sudden panic attacks [6]. Instead of fear low amounts of fear regularly, panic attacks cause someone to have a large amount of intense fear within just a couple minutes.

The biggest confliction for people who struggle with a panic disorder is their attacks often appear at random and/or are triggered by certain objects and situations.

The symptoms for a panic disorder include:

  • Choking
  • Feelings of impending ruin
  • Heart palpitations
  • Loss of control
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Trembles and shakes

Most people with panic disorder have developed the habit of avoiding future attacks. In turn, they try to stay away from triggers.

Due to this behavior, people who have panic attacks tend to develop introverted tendencies. By staying inside and away from people, they can assure a panic attack will not be seen by others.

Phobia-Related Disorder

Phobia-related disorders have many different disorders attached to them, including a “social anxiety disorder” [7]. These fears always have a specific direction, usually at an object or situation.

The biggest difference between this and generalized anxiety disorder is the majority of fear someone feels is pinpointed onto this object or situation (rather than generally recurring).

Similar to panic disorders, people will go out of their way to avoid what will trigger this fear. Though it’s not always the case, many end up developing introverted tendencies.

Common phobia-related disorders include:

  • Separation Anxiety Disorder – The fear of being apart from someone or something you’re attached to.
  • Social Anxiety Disorder – The fear of being in social or performance situations.
  • Specific Phobia (also known as Simple Phobia) – the fear of specific objects and/or situations.

High-Functioning Anxiety Disorder

As mentioned in the introduction, many introverts struggle with high-functioning anxiety disorder. This illness isn’t as apparent as the anxiety disorders mentioned above. Rather, a person can go their whole life appearing to others as “normal”, yet, deep down are driven by fear.

People who suffer from a high-functioning anxiety disorder often have a lot of difficulties as it’s not a diagnosable illness.

This is due to the fact that people with the disorder tend to function reasonably and are able to succeed in various aspects of life.  Yet, what many don’t see are the consequences happening underneath the skin.

Negative characteristics of having high-functioning anxiety disorder include:

  • Avoidance of eye-contact
  • Insomnia
  • High risk for developing a substance abuse disorder
  • Nervous talk
  • Overthinking
  • People pleasing (scared of driving people away)
  • Physical and mental fatigue
  • Procrastination
  • Redundant activity
  • Tendency to focus on negative aspects of life (i.e. mistakes)

People with high-functioning anxiety disorder have a struggle that doesn’t appear in the public eye. Not only are they battling an underlying fear, but they must keep it a secret to others in order not to hinder success.

In the long-run, this often causes people to become reclusive. And that’s why the disorder is often associated with introverts.

Signs of Introverted Anxiety

Are you not entirely certain you of your mental health? Or are you concerned from the behavior of a loved one?

There are a number of things to look out for when it comes to introverted anxiety. These include [8]:

  • You always need to be working on something.
  • You fear the idea of letting others down.
  • You feel tired (and, potentially, hopeless) all the time.
  • You find it hard to just stop.
  • You freak out on the inside but remain calm on the outside.
  • You live a repetitive lifestyle.
  • You maintain outward success.
  • You overthink.
  • You remain prepared, no matter the circumstances.
  • You talk when you’re nervous.
  • Your life is centered around avoidance.
  • Your perspective on the world differs from those around you.
  • You’re a perfectionist.
  • You’re easily afraid.
  • You’re prone to irritation and stress.

Of course, an introverted personality and anxiety are both very subjective. Many people with both conditions will find other aspects of themselves that aren’t on this list, yet, relate to their mental health.

Coping With Introversion

Being an introvert, especially in extroverted situations, comes with its difficulties. Still, there are a few ways to cope with the problems it brings:

  1. Allow Others to Understand You – Considering many introverts keep to themselves, they’re more likely to be misunderstood. If you’re surrounded by anyone you trust, it’s important to tell them a bit about some of the aspects of yourself you may keep bottled up.
  2. Inform Them of Your Needs – As you open up to those around you, it’s important to allow those around you to be aware of your specific needs. For some, this may be a quiet place. For others, it’s working alone on projects rather than working in a group.
  3. Spend Time Outside – If you’re an introvert, you most likely spend a lot of time inside. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you take the time to be outdoors. Even if it’s just for a 30-minute lunch, taking in fresh air is vital for your health. Furthermore, nature has a way of offering us tranquility.
  4. Know Who You Are – Of course, everyone needs to learn who they are as an individual to get through this life. However, introverts with anxiety may not always know exactly who they are. They may feel as though they’re constantly looking for themselves. This is okay and, in fact, should be embraced. As you continue to discover what makes you special, don’t be afraid to reveal that to other people.

Your Questions

If you still have questions surrounding introverted anxiety and how to handle it, we invite you to ask them in the comments below. If you have more information or personal experience on this topic, we’d also love to hear from you.

We try to reply to each legitimate question in a prompt and personal manner.

Reference Sources

[1] Greater Good Magazine: The Benefits of Introversion

[2] National Institute of Mental Health: Anxiety Disorders

[3] U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: What are the five major types of anxiety disorders?

[4] National Institute of Mental Health: Generalized Anxiety Disorder: When Worry Gets Out of Control

[5] National Institute of Mental Health: Prevalence of Generalized Anxiety Disorder Among Adults

[6] National Institute of Mental Health: Panic Disorder

[7] MentalHealth.gov: Phobias

[8] Psychology Today: 15 Signs of an Anxious Introvert

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