Social Anxiety vs. Socially Awkward – What’s The Difference?

People often confuse having social anxiety with being socially awkward. Many times people interlink the two as one which is why it is important to understand the difference between them. It is not only to educate oneself but to also make a person who has social anxiety or is socially awkward, feel comfortable whenever they find themselves in a tricky situation. 

In order to get a clear insight on the difference between the two and what to do in both situations, we asked Shahrukh Malik a (our resident therapist!) for insight:

What Is Social Anxiety?

Social Anxiety is most commonly described as the fear of being in a social setting. That fear can be stemmed from multiple things. Shahrukh gave us two examples – the fear of being judged, or the fear of rejection.

The constant fear of judgment with the ever harsh society standards is what most of us experience anxiety from time to time. As Shahrukh stated ‘social anxiety can be described as being under emotional stress while being in a social setting.’ The fear of being judged and rejected can cause immense emotional strain that can be classified as social anxiety.

What Is Being Socially Awkward? 

Some people might confuse being shy or introverted with being socially awkward. However, that is not the case. It can, in easy words, mean that one is uncomfortable in social situations. As Shahrukh said, ‘they struggle to navigate through social situations.’ 

She added that it might be difficult for them to pick up on social cues which may result in them being awkward or shy in a social setting. Some people may confuse the idea of being introverted with being socially awkward, but there is a clear difference. Introverts chose to be alone in a big gathering even after picking up general social cues. They are comfortable with their own company while people who would like to interact but fail to do so can be socially awkward.

The Main Difference

Both stem from social interaction. As said by Shahrukh, ‘both are similar in the sense that they exist in the context of social situations.’ However, there is a difference based on the nature of the two, which is anxiety. 

Anxiety symptoms range from fast heart beat to nausea and trembling. As Shahrukh mentioned, a person with social anxiety will have anxiety, however a person who is socially awkward will not feel the same level of anxiety, if at all. This might be because sometimes the people who are socially awkward may not be aware that they are missing social cues.

What Should One Do If They Have Social Anxiety?

We all know how frustrating it can be when you are trying your best to be social, and how one negative thought in the back of your head is making it difficult for you. The mind can be a tricky thing ,especially when it comes to thoughts that might force you to undermine yourself. One must practice deep breathing to calm themselves when they are in difficult situations. 

However, one of the most common certified methods as told by Shahrukh. is the CBT method called exposure therapy. In this, the person can put themselves in situations that might range from easy to situations that challenge their social anxiety. The idea of working up to more challenging situations, helps them to work through their fear of judgement and rejection. This ultimately makes them more confident over time.

What Should One Do If They Are Socially Awkward?

We can all agree on the idea that there is nothing wrong with being socially awkward or having social anxiety. According to Shahrukh, individuals who are socially awkward, tend to view the world as completely differently, and might excel in other areas. 

However, if a person wants to take steps to combat them being awkward in social situations, they can learn certain skills. Shahrukh mentioned that one can learn how to deepen conversations and focus on body language as well. This will take time and practice, but will prove to be helpful to those who might find themselves in situations that are socially awkward.

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