Social anxiety is often portrayed as a trait of shut-ins and outsiders, but it isn’t. Some coping mechanisms might display as traits commonly assigned to those groups, but others don’t. Depending on the person, their method of coping with a situation might not even present as anxiety. Much as mine doesn’t.
I have presented cases in Court many times and several people who believe in auras say mine is expansive. Whichever end of the spectrum you take your measure from, I present as confident in myself. Because I am.
But I still experience a negative reaction to some social situations. I just have a mechanism that doesn’t present as fear.
I don’t like being involved in groups of larger than eight people. The boundaries are somewhat flexible: people I’ve been friends with for years don’t have the same impact as strangers or casual acquaintances; professional situations, such as seminars and meetings don’t make me as twitchy as parties; being in the same area but not connected (such as sharing a carriage) reduces the influence of each person vastly. But – without a high proportion of close friends or a defined purpose – of I am within a large group, I withdraw onto safer ground.
Where it differs from the usual image of social anxiety is in my safer ground being built from confidence my thoughts and opinions are worth expressing. Whether or not I am feeling uncomfortable, I have little difficulty discussing philosophy, law, or other subjects with an intellectual aspect. So – where someone else with the same base discomfort might actively avoid interaction – I will hold long and involved conversations with groups as long as I don’t have to start them.
Which is why the situation that causes me the most discomfort is being fussed while I’m having a coughing fit. I can’t speak and I can’t move away. Intellectually, I know people are trying to help, but they’re doing it by invading my space without permission. The worst impact comes from the classic helpful response: rushing up with a glass of water and trying to force me to drink it.
Fortunately, I am also comfortable being on my own and have several interests that don’t need to be done in large groups, so my dislike of crowds isn’t a huge impact on me. And my life experiences have given me a particularly effective method of avoiding severe issues when it is.