Saturday, September 6, 2014

How to write introverts and social anxiety

Shy and anxious characters often find themselves into fiction. Usually as secondary characters. The exception seems to be when her social anxiety is the main part of the show.

Introversion does not mean that you are anti-social and that you dislike interacting with people. The change is in how your character prefers to interact with people. Introverts expend energy when interacting with people, whereas extroverts gain energy from social interactions.

Introverts also prefer to interact with a smaller group of people.

Social anxiety
Social anxiety also does not mean you're anti-social, though you're more likely to come off that way. Social anxiety presents as an intense and often unrealistic fear of interacting with people or quite simply just discomfort.

There are many ways your character might experience social anxiety.

- Asking somebody for something is often difficult, even if you are close to the person or it's an important question. Your character may feel like she is being bothersome or anticipate rejection. Instead she might opt to wait for the person to ask her for what it is she wants, as not to come off as bothersome.

- Clamming up. Your character may go quiet during a conversation, particularly during an argument when lots of people are talking. She is very likely to be talked over and allow it to happen, though she may not want to accept it, it is difficult for her to talk while others are doing so.

- Eagerness to end social interactions. She'll want to like social interactions and she may in fact like them, but if they go on too long, she will grow wary of it and want it to end.

- Dwelling on to things. If your character does something embarrassing or something she deems to be embarrassing she will dwell on it, possibly forever. It doesn't matter if it's not a big deal to anybody else, she will want that moment back and to have done something different.

- Talking to people in general is preceded by intense feelings of discomfort and a "psychological block" from inside the chest that makes it feel like it's impossible to speak.

Social anxiety is very frustrating to the sufferer because she wants to be more social but doesn't know how to and/or can't.

As you may have been able to tell, I am speaking from personal experience. I am not sure how much of it is a learned behavior and how much is inborn (I suspect it's a good deal both) but in any case it's not something that is easily overcome and I suspect that it isn't even possible (but that's probably just me).

Any questions or comments? Leave one below or e-mail me at

No comments:

Post a Comment