Understanding the Differences Between General and Social Anxiety

General and Social Anxiety
Photo Credit: Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Let’s define some vocabulary before reaching any conclusions about the issues posed in the title to this article.

Anxiety is the normal person’s temporary response to issues of concern. Wondering “Did I sign up for the right college class?” or “Did I turn off the oven/iron/air conditioner?” even “Did I pay that bill or not?” and “Does my date like me or my body or my money?” are the sorts of worrying ideas on many minds. They come and go.

Events or situations called “stressors,” things that induce a feeling of distress such as exams, dates, journeys, and important decisions to be made, affect humanity at large. The stress or distress becomes anxiety when those thoughts preoccupy a person’s mind, crowding out other concerns.

The “flight or fight” decision, the need to take a specific action to remedy the situation at hand, is what anxiety is about. Anxiety is a type of alert system that “something must be done.” But when the worries about benign everyday matters hijack a person’s activities of daily life with troubling symptoms such as rapid heartbeats, excessive perspiration, headaches and/or digestive upsets, and cycling thoughts that seem to be out of control, the mindset becomes an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety disorders disrupt life when affected persons go out of their way to avoid the situations they dislike. Avoidance behaviors such as skipping school, work, refusing to leave home, refusing to use specific appliances, and similar behaviors, undermine personal futures. The anxiety-ridden person is imprisoned within their fear. That’s a chronic rather than a temporary problem.

Social anxiety aka social phobia, on the other hand, is not about worrisome things, it is about dreading interactions with other people. A mild version of the problem happens with children who refuse to accept the presence of a sitter, clinging desperately to parental legs as they weep for the parents to stay home, demonstrate a fear of separation, one type of social anxiety. Parents make their childrens’ lives meaningful and safe. The offspring feel intimidated by strangers coming into their home, and betrayed by their usually accommodating parents. Children tend to outgrow the problem as they realize that their temporary carers are pleasant people, though. Far more serious social anxieties/phobias exist, though.

The crux of enduring social anxiety is the fear of being judged about your appearance, personality or possessions, and ultimately rejected from social acceptance. It manifests as apprehension, avoidance, fear and searing emotional pain. That leaves socially anxious persons unable to participate in common activities. Examples of social phobics are men who cannot urinate in public restrooms, students who prefer not to interact with teachers or classmates, and anyone reacting with hostility to authority figures. People who avoid making public presentations have a form of social anxiety that relates to special circumstances. Also a chronic rather than temporary problem, social anxiety sabotages the prospects of the persons suffering from it. They simply cannot finesse the normal interactions and situations of daily life such as making conversation or sales calls, public speaking engagements, or perhaps making simple phone calls for any reason.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the gold standard for treating anxiety.I If you or someone you know wants to leave their anxieties in the past, contact licensed online or in-office therapists prepared to help.