Anxiety Disorders: What is the Difference Between a Specific Phobia and Social Phobia

Anxiety Disorders: What is the Difference Between a Specific Phobia and Social Phobia
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Social Phobia

Social phobia is also known as social anxiety disorder. Psych Central defines social phobia as “an intense fear of becoming humiliated in social situations, specifically of embarrassing yourself in front of other people”. In many cases it does run in families. Your mother, father, aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins might understand what you are going through.

Those with social phobia could also suffer from alcoholism or depression. The symptoms of social phobia tend to show up in the beginning of the teen years or earlier.

Someone with social phobia will think that small mistakes in public are a much larger problem than they really are. Natural reactions or reactions in social situations are constantly analyzed. If a mistake is made the sufferer could be preoccupied with worrying about it for the rest of the event and for days, weeks, months, even years afterward.

A sufferer of social phobia will feel anxious in a variety of social situations such as parties, meetings, family gatherings, weddings, and more. Some also become anxious writing in front of other people. For example, writing a check could become very uncomfortable. Social phobia also consists of possibly becoming anxious talking on the phone, eating out, talking to others, and more. Giving a speech or presentation is usually considered the worst fear of someone with social phobia.

Any of these (or other) social situations can cause intense anxiety in someone with social phobia/social anxiety disorder.

Symptoms of social phobia:

  • Fear of others noticing your physical symptoms (blushing, shaking, sweating, shaky voice, confusion, etc.)
  • Fear of being in social situations, especially if everyone are strangers
  • Fear of being judged
  • Worrying about being embarrassed or humiliated
  • Avoiding social situations

Those with social phobia could also suffer from a low self-esteem and poor social skills.

Specific Phobia

A specific phobia is an intense and irrational fear of a situation or thing. Sufferers of a specific phobia are most commonly afraid of flying, heights, water, blood, needles, snakes, spiders, driving, and elevators. According to Psych Central, over one in ten people suffer from a specific phobia. That means nearly everyone in the world suffers from specific phobia.

Symptoms of Specific Phobia:

  • Avoiding the specific fear to nearly any extend
  • Becoming anxious before the possibility of being near the specific fear

What is the Difference Between Specific Phobia and Social Phobia?

In both of these anxiety disorders the sufferers understand that their fears are irrational. However, anxiety and panic attacks persist as these are medical disorders. Fortunately, there are treatments for social phobia and specific phobia. Many people have successfully been treated.

The difference between specific phobia and social phobia is that in specific phobia the sufferer is afraid of something limited, of something specific. In social phobia the sufferer is afraid of a variety of social situations.


Psych Central

Mayo Clinic

Web MD

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