Though I am an introvert, I do not suffer from social anxiety about mixing with people, going out etc. I have a small group of close friends whom I love and value very dearly. I have rarely been one for going out to big parties – I often feel out of place and lost and there will always come a point where I have had enough and want to leave / everyone else to start leaving.
When at a party, unless I know literally everyone I’ll tend to keep to the one or two people that I know. Sometimes I might talk to a stranger if they are with somebody I know and I will always engage in conversation with people who talk to me first. I do not get anxious, nervous or anything like that. I have often surprised myself in the past just how sociable I can be.
That said, I know people who are or have in the past suffer from social anxiety. My ex wife suffer(s) from it and it could often be an uphill struggle simply arranging to meet friends no matter the size of the group. It can come in many forms and is usually characterised with a extreme sense of self-conciousness when in the company of others – the perception that you think others might have of you. It is usually linked to low self esteem but not inevitably so.
For those who suffer a social anxiety disorder, it can be worse at Christmas with the enforced jollity, enforced social interaction, enforced karaoke singing in front of family you don’t see all year, having too much to drink and making an arse of yourself etc, the problems are multiplied tenfold.
Having social anxieties can also be hard on a close person who doesn’t have them – such as a partner – especially when group activities are involved in which both might be expected to turn up. When I was with my ex, any offer for us to go out with my uni friends was usually met with anger by her. They are “your (my) friends” and were only asking her because she was my girlfriend. If they didn’t ask her, she felt she was being snubbed. If I went out and said that I really wanted her there, that was me forcing her to go. If I told her it was her choice, that was me not caring whether she went or not. And of course if she didn’t go at all, she worried that my friends didn’t like her because of it. Yet she would rarely go out with her own friends for more or less the same reasons and when I did go out, the result was usually an argument because of “how I made her feel.”
It is perhaps one of the least understood of mental health problems – mostly because sufferers don’t see themselves as having a problem and others chalking it up to that person having a quiet personality (though of course, this is not always the same thing).
If you feel you have issues and feel that social anxiety is a problem for you, you might try the resources above