Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Social Phobia vs. Social Anxiety: What’s the Difference?


Many people ask me what the difference is between social phobia and social anxiety. So let’s take a look!

Medical meaning of “Social Phobia”

In medical terms, Social Phobia is exactly the same as Social Anxiety Disorder. If you ask a professional psychologist, they’ll tell you that there’s no difference between the two.

But there is an important difference!

As someone who has suffered from, overcame, and studied this ‘disorder’ for months, I see that there’s a difference between Social Phobia and Social Anxiety Disorder.

Social Phobia is the fear of being
in the situation; whereas
Social Anxiety Disorder is the experience
during the situation

There are two primary issues to overcome for an SA sufferer:

1. The fear of going into an anxiety provoking situation

2. Dealing with your feelings once you are in that anxiety provoking situation

The word phobia means: “A deep and irrational fear of something.” So, you can only call it Social Phobia, if you’re scared of the situation. 

What if you’re not scared of it, but you still feel the anxiety? How can that be phobia? 

It can’t, because phobia means fear, and you’re not scared of the situation.

If you’re willing to go into a situation despite the anxiety, then you don’t have a phobia of it. 

When I was at school, I put up with social anxiety attacks on a daily basis. How can you call that a phobia? I wasn’t scared of experiencing the anxiety, thus I didn’t have fear of it, so it wasn’t phobia – but it was severe social anxiety disorder.

If you have phobia, you’re scared of entering social situations. If you only have an anxiety disorder, then you’re not scared to enter such situations, but you still feel intense anxiety when in them.

So what is this phobia, really?

It’s the fear of a specific social situation. Social phobia is a stage where you’re not yet at the level of coping with anxiety in this social situation, because you’re still avoiding it.

And in contrast, what is SAD?

Social anxiety disorder is the confused way that your subconscious mind processes social situations when you’re actually in them. 

The mind sees danger where there is none (that process is what SAD is), and provides you with sensations that are designed to help you survive a lethal threat (the consequences of SAD).

Why It’s Crucial That You See The Difference
Between the Phobia & Disorder

Seeing the difference between the phobia and the anxiety allows you to understand the 2 issues you’re facing:

1. Avoidance of social situations. The stage where you’re not yet willing to experience an anxiety provoking situation. This is the first issue to deal with, if you have it.

2. Your actions, once you’re in a social situation. You know that what you feel at this point is trying to protect you, but you haven’t yet learnt how to show your mind that anxiety is unneeded in this situation.

Emily Murdoch
Hi I write about health and fitness for women! You may contact me at

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