Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting over 40 million adults every year. With anxiety at an all-time high as we live through a pandemic and an increasingly globalized and technologically advanced world, it can be challenging to understand what type of anxiety you may be experiencing. The most common types of anxiety are social and general anxiety, but how can you tell the difference? In order to receive the right treatment for your condition, it’s essential to know what type of anxiety you’re experiencing.

What is General Anxiety Disorder?

General anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by excessive feelings of tension and worrying thoughts. Often, symptoms can manifest themselves physically, causing nausea, stomach pains, and headaches. Other frequently seen signs of GAD include: 

  • Increased heart rate
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Issues with concentration and focus 
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Hyperventilation 
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Trembling hands

These symptoms can cause impairment throughout one’s daily life, and GAD is diagnosed when three or more symptoms are present more days than not for at least six months. Signs may become exacerbated around important events in a person’s life, such as getting married, changing jobs, or moving to a new place. 

What is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a mental illness that involves intense fear, worry, and self-consciousness in everyday social situations. People with social anxiety may be anxious about being around unfamiliar people or new social circumstances. They are also usually concerned about interacting with others due to fears of being judged, criticized, ridiculed, humiliated, embarrassed, or offending someone else. 

SAD affects around 15 million adults in the United States and usually develops during adolescence. This condition is frequently misdiagnosed as shyness, but social anxiety can be significantly more severe. Some signs associated with SAD include: 

  • Excessive blushing and sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Rigid body posture
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 
  • Speaking in a low volume 
  • Difficulty making eye contact 
  • Insomnia

People suffering from social anxiety typically avoid public situations where others may scrutinize them, or they may rely on alcohol or drugs to face social events. In some cases, this condition may prevent the person from working, attending school, or completing daily tasks. Without treatment, social anxiety may persist for many years and sometimes even a lifetime. 

The Key Difference Between GAD and SAD

Those affected by GAD experience anxiety about a wide range of issues in their life, from their health and ongoing relationships to finances and job performance. In general, people with GAD worry about major life decisions and day-to-day stressors that may not affect others as much. In contrast, people with SAD solely worry about new interactions, being judged, performing in front of others, and other social situations. 

Although avoidance actions may look similar in those with GAD and SAD, their reasons for avoidance are the key difference between the two conditions. For example, someone with GAD may avoid going on a date because they are uncertain of what restaurant to go to or what to wear. Meanwhile, someone with SAD may avoid going on a date because they are afraid of being rejected or what the other person will think of them. 

Clinical Research for Social Anxiety Disorder

If you experience symptoms of social anxiety, then it may be time to contact Olympian Clinical Research. At Olympian Clinical Research, we are currently conducting a clinical trial on SAD to identify a new treatment option for those suffering from the condition. Click here to learn more today.