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Extraversion is a personality trait that, as the Wikipedia article describes, causes people "to enjoy human interactions", to be sociable, outgoing and love crowds.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD), on the other hand, causes people to fear being judged and often makes them avoid social situations, either in general or at least those aspects that would lead to the person to "stand in the spotlight".

From their definitions, extraversion and SAD seem to exclude each other. It seems impossible that they can co-occur in the same person.

Is it possible that an extraverted person suffers from social anxiety disorder?

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  • $\begingroup$ We tend to steer clear of self-help issues here, so I have removed the personal aspect of the question. I think you will still get an applicable answer this way. $\endgroup$ – Chuck Sherrington Sep 3 '14 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'd guess that empathy should be fairly independent, but that social anxiety and extraversion ought to contradict one another in general...Could you clarify what you mean by social anxiety and extraversion? They don't necessarily manifest as described in textbooks, so I'd hesitate to infer what you mean from other sources. $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner Sep 3 '14 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ I find this question completely clear and would like to see it reopened. $\endgroup$ – user3116 Nov 21 '14 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ you are getting a message from an extrovert with social anxiety disorder. Though I do not at all have a fear of talking with strangers at all, in fact It its much easier for me to meet new people that it is to build the friendships I have. I love being in social interactions with new people, they don't know me, for there I can give any impression I want, and it is very easy to make people like you in a shallow way, but I have never been able to make meaningful friendships because as soon as they start to know me more In kicks in the social anxiety. I get really nervous. $\endgroup$ – user7958 Mar 28 '15 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ am naturally an extrovert but I now have social anxiety $\endgroup$ – user9098 Aug 16 '15 at 13:09
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It's pretty difficult to imagine a person with Social Anxiety Disorder being an extrovert. The symptoms of SAD include [1]:

  • Intense fear of interacting with strangers and of being judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself or that others think that you look anxious
  • Anxiety that disrupts your daily routine, work, school or other activities
  • Avoiding doing things or speaking to people out of fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you might be the center of attention
  • Difficulty making eye contact or talking

Signs and symptoms include blushing, sweating, trembling or shaking, fast heartbeat, upset stomach, nausea, shaky voice, muscle tension, confusion, diarrhea, and cold, clammy hands.

Extroverts, on the other hand, usually don't have any problems with the above situations.

Introversion and extroversion are not either/or, but exist on a continuum. One can have attributes of both, and empathy with both. SAD is not on this continuum.

[1] Mayo Clinic

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On the surface, it does seem like social anxiety disorder and extroversion shouldn't both exist in the same person. On the other hand, anongoodnurse has already touched upon a point which leads us to a different conclusion - these traits are on different dimensions. When one takes a closer look at what the two dimensions actually mean, (especially as confirmed in latest psychological research) it seems like they can co-exist just fine, and most people probably have one or two (or many more) aquaitances with both traits (to some degree or other). anongoodnurse has already described SAD. Unlike it is traditionally assumed by the layman, the introversion-extroversion scale does not measure a social property, however. Rather, it describes to what extent a person derives rewards from stimuli - extraverts simply derive more pleasure from environmental stimuli (of any kind). [1] Recent neuroscientific research has confirmed this: modifying the neurotransmitter systems of reward/punishment (i.e. dopamine) modifies introversion/extraversion. [2] Of course, an arbitratily chosen person who derives pleasure from the environment probably also usually derives pleasure from social environments. However, this is surely not always the case - there are plenty of people in academia, for instance, who love exploring environments - just not social ones ;).

[1] Gray, Jeffrey A. "The psychophysiological basis of introversion-extraversion." Behaviour research and therapy 8.3 (1970): 249-266.

[2] Depue, Richard A., and Yu Fu. "On the nature of extraversion: variation in conditioned contextual activation of dopamine-facilitated affective, cognitive, and motor processes." Frontiers in human neuroscience 7 (2013).

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There is a big difference between being X and showing signs of X.

In particular, given reasonable incentives (that are quite abundant in society), people can fake appearances of extroversion and empathy, and some people can do it quite successfully. Some disorders may make it hard[er] to accomplish, but people with a severe lack of empathy (psychopathy) often are able appear more empathetic than the average.

Similarly, a highly introverted person (though probably not with Social Anxiety Disorder) could plausibly behave as very extroverted; it could be unpleasant and stressful for them, but they can do it if they choose, and have focused on the relevant skills that might have come naturally for the more extroverted people simply by more exposure and practice.

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