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introverts and medicine

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by korndoctor, Jul 25, 2006.

  1. korndoctor

    korndoctor Member

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    if you truly love medicine and are an introvert, how do you defend youself when people ask you why you want to enter medicine b/c people will expect you to be an extrovert? any comments?
     
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  3. UCLAstudent

    UCLAstudent I'm a luck dragon!

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    You're not expected to be an extrovert. If anything, you're expected to be a good listener, which is more of an introvert quality. There's room for both extroverts and introverts in medicine, and certain specialties will mesh better with each personality type. :thumbup:
     
  4. bbas

    bbas Senior Member

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    Why would people expect most to be extroverts? Do a search here for myers briggs. The majority of people always seem to be INTJ. Being an introvert does not equate to poor social skills.
     
  5. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search

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    Don't listen to the naysayers. I know very good doctors who are introverts (one is a geriatrician, the other is internal med), I have been treated by one of them and worked with the other (worked with the geriatrician, not the other way around, lol :D ).
    You learn to deal with patients your way, and it doesn't make you any less of a doctor.
    :love:
     
  6. TIGIBedHead

    TIGIBedHead Fever to Tell

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    I have a good friend whose father is a doctor, and he's incredibly introverted in social situations. He works in his own private office and in a hospital. The nurses talk behind his back because he's not the kind of guy to shoot the breeze or make small talk with random people. But his patients absolutely adore him. It is possible to be a quiet, low-key individual and an amazing physician.
     
  7. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    ISFJ here. I think the term "introvert" is misleading and often misused. I'm introverted in a sense that I'm extremely private about my feelings, but I'm not reserved in social interaction. In fact, I consider myself outgoing. Introvert does not equal quiet and meek.
     
  8. Mooby

    Mooby Senior Member

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    Don't feel pressured to defend yourself. Let people think what they will.

    I think medicine could probably use a few introverts. Not every patient enjoys a doctor chatting everything up. Quite a few appreciate a more serious tone. In my volunteer work, I make it a point not to initiate conversation about anything outside of a patient's healthcare. Of course, one needs to listen if a patient wants to talk and use their judgement on how far they want the converation to proceed.

    Given that you're talking about introverts, you're probably more interested in research or a field like radiology that has less patient contact. With that in mind, just let others know your goals. There's a place in medicine for all personality types as long as you show dedication to healing patients and furthering the medical arts.
     
  9. baylormed

    baylormed On the Search

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    Anecdote:

    My ochem prof told me he didn't want to write a recommendation letter for me ( I had a good grade in his class, never missed a lecture, worked hard, etc) because I didn't seem to be "social" enough.
    When I said "what do you mean?" (what I was thinking was "you don't even know me dude :mad: "), he said that when I went to his office he never had a conversation with me outside of the subject. I just asked questions, got answers and left. He said if I wanted to be a doctor I needed to be more "extroverted" and "sociable" to deal with patients ( I was thinking "I have friends, I have a life...and oh yeah, YOU DON'T KNOW ME :mad: )

    Obviously, I said thanks but I won't be wanting a letter from you anytime soon, and left. It made me mad because he based his assumption of my character on a few office visits. Excuse me! but I don't make friends with my professors very often. I go to class and study and ask relevant questions. Especially when they have 3 hours of office hrs a week and there are 5 people waiting outside the office to ask their own questions. So in trying to be respectful of their time I got screwed.

    O well, he was the only one who seemed to think I didn't deserve a letter, so it doesn't matter, but it bothered me. :thumbdown:
     
  10. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    Again, you're equating introverts with people who are quiet and serious. This is not necessarily the case. I'm an introvert (a very strong one by Meyer's Briggs), but I'm a total goofball and like to talk.
     
  11. MiesVanDerMom

    MiesVanDerMom D.o. or Die

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    most of my son's doctors are totally lacking in social skills. i think it's common among specialists. also, as you get older, you do come out of your shell a bit (if you want to anyway). I am as shy as they come but I've really improved as my twenties have rolled past me... :thumbup:
     
  12. oneaat

    oneaat Senior Member

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    i'm pretty introverted socially, but over the years (3 yrs out of college) i've worked and travelled and learned to be more confident, professionally. so i'm not shy about approaching patients or coworkers, even if i wouldn't meet their eye out at a bar. in fact, that was pretty much my answer in an interview when that question came up. feel free to use it :)
     
  13. TIGIBedHead

    TIGIBedHead Fever to Tell

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    I think that there is room for introverts in fields other than radiology or research. Just because someone is reserved in social situations doesn't mean that they are incapable of professionally handling a situation with a patient. The physician doesn't have to go to parties with their patients, they're there to help them. In such a clearly defined role, and with the relevant knowledge and useful guidelines, introverts can do just as good of a job as extroverts.

    And like someone above pointed out, an introvert isn't necessarily meek. An introvert is simply someone who recharges through alone time, whereas extroverts get their energy from constantly being around others. Depending on the situation, an introvert can seem outgoing too, and I think that the doctor-patient relationship is such that introverts can seem like extroverts. You practice small talk, and eventually it becomes more natural. And your real goal is to make the patient feel comfortable, which means that listening is important, maybe even more so than talking.
     
  14. mvenus929

    Physician

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    I'm personally really quiet and reserved in uncomfortable situations. I have no problems talking to people one-on-one if I have something to talk about, and once I'm comfortable in my surroundings. So when I'm working in a group, I tend to listen and think more than talk things out, unless I really know the other people in the group and feel that what I have to say is important.
     
  15. bbas

    bbas Senior Member

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    Similarly, as a physician you are not expected to become friends with your patients either. Most if not all of your interaction with patients will be about their medical problems, not about social things. I don't agree with the professor at all.
     
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  17. AggieJohn

    AggieJohn Senior Member

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    I find it interesting you were asking for a LOR when you stated several times that he "didn't know you."
     
  18. Dr. Pepper

    Dr. Pepper Duffman in Disguise

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    +1

    There is absolutely no reason why introverts cannot be great doctors.

    Even more so, I would claim that many patients would prefer introverts. Patients do want to be comforted, but they would much rather have a professional doctor than a doctor who tries to be their best friend. Some specialties (surgery, radiology) seem to be better fitted to introverts as well.

    Also, it is important to not fall into the stereotypes of introverts and extroverts. Both have their advantages and both can be great physicians.

    And to Baylor, I totally agree with you....it's pretty baseless to assess one's character based on office visits. You can't expect much personality when asking about London Dispersion Forces. :rolleyes:
    -Dr. P.
     
  19. Oculus Sinistra

    Oculus Sinistra Finish it.

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    You don't have to be friends, but you have to be friendly. I can see what the professor is trying to say.

    Consider the following two hypothetical doctors:

    DOCTOR 1:

    Doc: "Hello Mr.Smith."
    Patient: "Hello."
    Doc: "What seems to be the problem?"
    Patient: "I fell off a ladder."
    Doc: "okay. and?"
    Patient: "And my leg's been hurting for three days now. I can barely walk."
    Doc: "Okay. We should do an x-ray and we'll see if the bone is broken."
    Patient: "okay."

    *awkward silence while the doctor writes down his notes*

    Nothing wrong with it, necessarily; very much just "going through the motions". You can still be an excellent physician in the sense that you know every symptom and can interpret every lab result, but most people will probably feel that you're not very enjoyable to visit.

    DOCTOR 2:

    Doc: "Heyyyyyyyyy, John! How have you been?"
    Patient: "Not too bad, not too bad, just have this problem with my leg."
    Doc: "Really? Let me see! Wow, look at that. What happened?"
    Patient: "Ohhh, I fell off a damn ladder trying to clean the gutters."
    Doc: "Tell me about it! I almost fell myself last week trying to take down the Christmas lights. One hundred chains... never again! You know what John, I'm going to need to see what the inside of your leg looks like, so let's go X-ray your leg and find out what we need to do to fix you up, alright? Come with me."

    Some people might be annoyed by this because it's a little more drawn-out. In my experience, however, most people love this type of good-natured attention. It's more neighborly and it helps to relieve the stress of not only dealing with the fact that you have an injury, but the fact that you have to see a doctor about that.

    Since we want to be doctors, we don't think seeing a doctor is anything to be anxious about... but other people do. We should want to reduce that anxiety as much as possible. I think that's part of what it really means to "treat the whole patient and not just the injury."

    And perhaps the professor is concerned about this. It's not so much about "introverts"... they just don't want more conversational minimalists in medicine. I think that's entirely understandable.
     
  20. Ross434

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    I'd much prefer the 2nd doctor type, but unfortunately have never run into one. Hopefully i can remedy this myself someday. That said, i've never had doubts about my doctor's abilities. And a lot of the "briskness" in attitude comes from the HMO's strenuous schedule.
     
  21. durfen

    durfen I see plans within plans

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    You know your doctor 2 sounds a lot like Claude the chatbot (shout out to anyone who knows who Claude is).
     
  22. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    Since when are chemistry professors qualified to judge (1) a person's relative sociability, (2) how this quality projects onto a career in medicine and (3) the effect of sociability on patient care?
     
  23. Oculus Sinistra

    Oculus Sinistra Finish it.

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    EDIT.

    Uhhh, since when are they not qualified?

    They are people...
    who see doctors...
    who can formulate an opinion...
    and
    in a position to enforce that opinion by agreeing/refusing to write a LOR.

    I'm not saying that professors are right about this all the time.

    What I'm saying is I believe that a person's relative sociability can be gauged by office visits over time and interaction with other students that also come in.

    Medical schools obviously believe this as well or they wouldn't ask for LOR's from professors. The LOR is supposed to say "I am a professor, I had this student, he was this this and this, and from what I observed, I think he would make an excellent physician."

    The LOR is just a professor's APPROXIMATION of the physician you'll become based on their time with you.

    In most cases, the professor doesn't know everything about how social you are or not. Similarly, patients don't care if you have fifty thousand friends you hang out with at home... they care about how you act when they are your patient in your office/exam room/etc. That's what they care about.

    How you act when you interact with a professor may be totally different than how you'll act with a patient, true, but there's really no way for the professor to know that. What he thinks is how you act around him is how you're going to act around a patient.

    Otherwise, what are the options?
    No LORs? Not likely.
    LORs only from social psych professors who have seen you in both one-on-one and large group settings? Who came with you to the hospital while you shadowed?
     
  24. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    It is my understanding that professors who write LORs are assessing the student's academic aptitude and performance. This is so that an adcom can ascertain whether or not the applicant has the academic discipline required to be successful in medical school.

    I think assessments of one's sociability and its potential effect on one's career as a doctor are assessed mainly through one's ECs. They show whether or not you can interact with people as part of a team, or one-on-one.

    I do agree the subtleties in one's personality can be assessed by a professor, but it is not the MAIN reason for an LOR as I understand it.

    Again, this is just my opinion on the process, and I am no way an authority on the matter.
     
  25. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Depends what you mean by introvert. A little shy or quiet is probably fine, but anything beyond that will have to be overcome. Doctors will need to interact with patients, support staff and other doctors on a regular basis. And not just listening to patients, but asking lots and lots of questions. You will be the sounding board of people's ailments and the bringer of good and bad news. So it is a very socially involved and taxing profession. Unlike a lot of other jobs, you won't usually be closing yourself up in your office alone to work on any regular basis. (Even radiologists don't get to do this as much, as that specialty in particular is becoming more interventional/patient oriented, and that technology is taking a more active role in various procedures.)
    You will find an emphasis on patient empathy and bedside manner in schools these days, and you will be expected to have some degree of both. And there are increasing numbers of studies out there suggesting that physicians who take the time to connect with their patients get sued less.
     
  26. Doctor~Detroit

    Doctor~Detroit this poll sux!!!

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    :thumbup:

    i'm a pretty quiet person. i can be downright shy when it comes to interacting with strangers when there is not a purpose for doing so. this doesn't apply when i work on an ambulance, where there's an obvious medical purpose for my interaction. i'm perfectly fine asking people medically related personal questions to someone i don't know. i've even learned to make decent small talk when patients cue me that it's what they want, and i try to enjoy it (especially when it results in humor or an interesting life story). and being introverted has nothing to do with being less empathic, as someone else suggested. i can understand and care about a patient's perspective just fine.

    adeadlois, i don't understand how you can be an introvert and enjoy being social. i've met extroverts before who were real social butterflies--couldn't go a couple hours without talking to someone, even if it were a stranger on the phone about some inane thing--but would describe themselves as shy. wtf?
     
  27. FujiApple

    FujiApple Member

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    This thread makes me feel better about myself. I'm a very quiet person when I don't really need to talk or when I'm around new people. I've often worried if this is a bad quality in a doctor... but there is just as great a need for doctors who carefully listen to and observe the patient as for doctors who can chat with them. The one reassures the patient by practicing professionalism and attention to detail, the other reassures the patient by catering to his human need for pleasant social interaction. There's a place for both of us "verts" in this world. :)
     
  28. Oculus Sinistra

    Oculus Sinistra Finish it.

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    Hello again...

    Sure, but grades on your AMCAS transcript can also tell adcoms about a student's academic aptitude and performance. It follows that if you have an excellent academic aptitude, you will have an excellent academic performance.

    It's just like premeds with high GPA's in honor societies that induct them because they have high GPA's. I'm not against them, I'm just saying that adcoms know why you are inducted into these societies and it CAN be redundant -- I say CAN be because of course these societies may have EC's you can engage in and great people to meet.

    I agree that ECs can help to show how you interact with people one-on-one or part of a team. I totally agree. However, if an adcom wants to know this information and you don't have an LOR from somebody attached to your EC, it may be a moot point because all the adcom can go on is your word.

    The problem with that is your word only tells part of the story. Obviously when you're in your interview you are going to vouch for your ability to interact well with people and point to your EC's as an example.

    I think the LOR serves multiple purposes: academic potential, research potential, teaching potential, social potential, how ambitious you are... but I'm not an authority on the matter either.

    Just playing devil's advocate in most cases.
     
  29. 63768

    63768 Guest

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    if you love what you do, you'll get comfortable as a physician and will be willing to talk more. or over the years, you'll develop the communication skills you didn't have before.

    people change depending on the situation. for example, i'm pretty extroverted and outgoing, but stick me in the presence of a mentor (even if i'm just observing) and i'll be as quiet as a mouse and won't speak unless spoken to. similarly an introvert will do what is necessary when the time comes.
     
  30. jackieMD2007

    jackieMD2007 ***MVI***

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    Well put. :thumbup:
     
  31. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Some will, some won't. Some people on here are equating introvert with slightly reserved/shy, rather than someone who truly withdraws away from all social settings and contacts and lives primarily within their own thoughts (the more extreme definition). There are people out there, true introverts, who don't like to leave their own home. There are a variety of anti-anxiety medications on the market for folks with some of the more serious problems, providing mixed results. But if this latter form describes you, medicine will be an awfully hard career choice. Try some career in which you can telecommute.
     
  32. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    I think you have a very different dictionary than I. :rolleyes:
     
  33. 63768

    63768 Guest

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    wrd. i guess i was leaning towards the less extreme definition. i figured if these "introverts" are posting on SDN, they aren't the extreme type. but you're right, those more extreme types would do better in a different career. either that or they should try to get over their introversion.

    i agree here too. by definition, introversion is directing one's thoughts inward. a loose definition is a reserved/shy person.
     
  34. Ari Gold

    Ari Gold .....

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    well you were asking him to vouch for your character by asking for a LOR. that's basically what a letter is and i'm assuming he only had those few office visits. if you didn't like what he had to say it's not his fault. you should be happy he wasn't a jerk and wrote you a bad rec letter without telling you like some people i've heard of.
     
  35. TIGIBedHead

    TIGIBedHead Fever to Tell

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    Law2Doc, an introvert isn't necessarily a person who is withdrawn from society and remains in their own thoughts. The psychological definition of an introvert is someone who gains energy/recharges by being alone, whereas an extrovert recharges by interacting with people. An introvert can be a friendly person, who happens to need more alone time than his extroverted counterparts. Social anxiety is a separate issue, often confused with shyness, which is often confused with introversion.
     
  36. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    I think a person who is afraid to leave their home likely suffers from agorophobia or social anxiety disorder, not simply "extreme introversion". I was actually a pretty strong introvert when I took Myers-Briggs, but I do not withdraw from social interaction. My introversion comes from my tendency to withhold "soft" emotions, not necessarily withhold social interaction. I do have an extreme dislike for talking on the phone, but I think this is a phobia, since I don't have problems talking to people in person. I don't think my brand of introversion is a hinderance to future patient interaction. It can't be assumed that if someone is an introvert, even a strong one, that they'll be poor in patient interaction.
     
  37. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    I'm going with the lay dictionary definition -- check any major dictionary or one of those you find online. The definition is really more along the lines of social withdrawal/anxiety. No idea what psychologists define it as, but I'll take your word for it -- at any rate the thread didn't qualify it as such. So if the OP meant the definition of introvert I see in my dictionary, then unless drugs can control it, medicine is going to be tough. It is very much a service industry and about as social a profession as you can get.
     
  38. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    In my PS I actually talk about my introversion (I don't label it as such, but I strongly imply it) and its relation to my ability to interact with patients. When I started as a volunteer in a children's hospital, I was very nervous on my first day because I was in a new situation and felt uncomfortable at first. However, through my enjoyment of interacting with patients, I was able to overcome my anxiety and actually really enjoyed myself, and still do.
     
  39. durfen

    durfen I see plans within plans

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    It's nearly the same with me. I have no problems talking to patients (at least while shadowing), but I am far from actually seeking social interaction and don't like too much to gab. I don't have any anxiety in social situations, but I don't gain an immense amount of pleasure from them. I was classified INTJ by meyers.
     
  40. Dr.TobiasFünke

    Physician

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    you cannot be introverted if you want to become an actor. perhaps if i were more introverted i would still be a doctor
     
  41. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Even in the world of psychology, social axiety is actually not so much a separate issue. Those suffering from social anxiety problems disproportionately will be classified as introverts on tests such as Meyers-Briggs. See eg.


    "Over-representation of Myers Briggs Type Indicator introversion in social phobia patients.Janowsky DS, Morter S, Tancer M.
    Department of Psychiatry, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 27599-7175, USA.

    The purpose of this study is to profile the personalities of patients with social phobia. Sixteen patients with social phobia were compared with a normative population of 55,971, and with 24 hospitalized Major Depressive Disorder inpatients, using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator, a popular personality survey, divides individuals into eight categories: Extroverts versus Introverts, Sensors versus Intuitives, Thinkers versus Feelers, and Judgers versus Perceivers. Social phobia patients were significantly more often Introverts (93.7%) than were subjects in the normative population (46.2%). In addition, using continuous scores, the social phobia patients scored as significantly more introverted than did the patients with Major Depressive Disorder, who also scored as Introverted. Introversion is a major component of social phobia, and this observation may have both etiological and therapeutic significance.

    PMID: 10875053 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]"
     
  42. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    Agreed, but social phobia isn't necessarily a component of introversion. My point is that you can't automatically label one as having a social anxiety if they are classified as an introvert.
     
  43. Law2Doc

    Law2Doc 5K+ Member
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    Not under the Meyers-Briggs definition no. Under the definition found in most lay dictionaries, actually yes.
     
  44. TIGIBedHead

    TIGIBedHead Fever to Tell

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    What he said :thumbup: Law2Doc, you make a good point about the extreme situation of someone with social anxiety in relation to the practice of medicine -- this person can be an introvert or an extrovert, more likely the former, as you point out. But this subset isn't the whole. Yet even for those introverts or extroverts with social anxiety, as long as it can be controlled through medication or cognitive behavioral therapy, there's not much of a problem.

    EDIT: Quote included for clarification.
     
  45. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    But, the terms introvert and extrovert are themselves derived from the Myers-Briggs test. Myers and Briggs based the test on the work of Carl Jung, who coined the terms. His definition of the two terms were based on where an individual acquires their energy, whether it be from his or herself or the outside world. From this, introversion is not indicative of any sort of social phobia.

    Modern definitions of the term stray from to imply more of a social phobia, giving it the connotations it has today.

    We can debate the semantics of the term all day, but its history is not indicative of it pertaining to social phobias.
     
  46. bbas

    bbas Senior Member

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    While I don't disagree with the fact that the majority of people with social anxiety would be classified as an introvert, it is incorrect to assume that all introverts have a social anxiety disorder or are shy. Introvert/Extrovert is simply a measure of how a person responds to social interaction. Extroverts thrive when they are around people, while introverts prefer to recharge alone after being around people. Shyness/social anxiety has more to do with people who are actually afraid of social interaction for whatever reason- fear of being judged, not knowing what to say, etc. This fear is not associated with an introverted personality, unless like I said the person is also suffering from some type of anxiety disorder.
     
  47. bbas

    bbas Senior Member

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    From dictionary.com:

    1. To turn or direct inward.
    2. Psychology. To concentrate (one's interests) upon oneself.
    3. Medicine. To turn (a tubular organ or part) inward upon itself.
     
  48. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    Law2Doc is right when he says that modern dictionaries imply that social phobia is a symptom of introversion. The point I made above is that the term has changed somewhat from its initial origins.
     
  49. TIGIBedHead

    TIGIBedHead Fever to Tell

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    I'm wondering if the converse is true. In other words, is it just that of patients with social anxiety, a large proportion happen to be introverts? Or is it also true that a larger proportion of introverts have social anxiety? This may very well be true, and I would strongly hypothesize in favor of this statement.. but does the above study prove this?
     
  50. ADeadLois

    ADeadLois Senior Member

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    I'm not arguing that a large number of introverts don't have a social anxiety; I'm saying that it's implicit in the term.

    Also, let's be careful about how we label social anxiety. There's a big difference between being shy and having SAD or a personality disorder. However, I still maintain that all 3 are not necessarily ingrained qualities of an introvert.
     
  51. TIGIBedHead

    TIGIBedHead Fever to Tell

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    You mean NOT implicit in the term, right? I agree with you.
     
  52. bbas

    bbas Senior Member

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    Yes, but introversion is not a symptom of social phobia.
     

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