The Difference Between Social Anxiety Disorder or Phobia and Social Anxiety

For the last couple of months, we’ve been exploring anxiety, it’s symptoms and effects, as well as effective treatments. To better understand your anxiety, or determine if you need treatment for it, you can check out this blog:

If you’ve already determined that you’re suffering from anxiety, and you’re ready to seek treatment for it, this blog has some helpful tips and next steps from one of our clinicians:

This month; we’ll be focusing on Social Anxiety Disorder, also known as Social Phobia. 


For many people, it’s typical to feel anxious before or during certain social events, such as a first date, a wedding, a job interview,  or a large get together where there will be many people you don’t know. The anxiety or nervousness you might feel during these particular events are typically situational, and subside when you’re attending events or functions with familiar faces, that are a regular part of your social circle or life. While social anxiety can be situational, social anxiety disorder, or social phobia, is constant and ongoing, and often gets worse over time, especially without treatment. The thoughts of anxiety are not diminished outside of the social situation, and can be constant and intrusive. 

Social phobia also differs from social anxiety in that it can be debilitating and interfere with every day events or situations, while social anxiety will usually subside after the event is over. 

Sometimes the onset of social phobia can be exacerbated by stress, or times of uncertainty or transition. The Cleveland Clinic defines social anxiety disorder as “a mental health condition where you experience intense and ongoing fear of being judged negatively and/or watched by others.”

But in social phobia, even smaller events with people you know can cause heightened feelings of panic or fear. 

This is often coupled with physical symptoms, such as a faster heart rate, abnormal blushing, trouble breathing, an upset stomach, profuse sweating, and even sore muscles from tension. These symptoms can be extremely disruptive or debilitating, leading you to miss social events altogether or to a cycle of avoidance of social situations which then in turn magnifies the fear and makes it harder to go to future social events. Extreme social phobia can even interfere with daily things like work or school, or even be as extreme as fearing eating in public, using public restrooms, or talking to a salesclerk. Many people with social phobia live in constant fear of being judged or scrutinized by others, even without cause or reason, and even with people you know and trust. 

Experiencing social phobia can lead to life altering issues, such as fear of making eye contact with others, speaking in a group; even when it’s not publicly, and low self esteem, which can lead to other serious mental health issues. 

It’s important to recognize if you need help, as well as what kind of help, when struggling with social anxiety disorder. In our next blog post, we will discuss treatment options and how to get help for social phobia. 

Another variant of social anxiety disorder is often known as performance anxiety. In this case the anxiety is more targeted to intense fear and anxiety about speaking or performing in public, but not necessarily in other social situations. Often related to a focus on how others may be judging them. One can have performance anxiety and not necessarily have social anxiety in other realms. Most people with general social anxiety disorder though would likely have some element of performance anxiety as well and they often go hand in hand. 

Also there are many individuals who have anxiety leading up to social events and after them but typically feel ok during the event itself and can ease in and not feel as anxious during the social event. This is usually more of a generalized anxiety pattern where the anxiety is more the anticipation of something and then reviewing the event afterwards. This is in contrast to social anxiety which often does not remit much during the event and may even feel debilitating during an event.  


If you are wondering about how to better understand and address your anxiety reach out to Our team of local psychologists, counselors and marriage and family therapists are available in our Tampa and St. Petersburg, FL offices to help get you started. You can start your therapy journey by following these simple steps: 

  1. Contact Wellness Psychological Services 
  2. Meet with a caring therapist 
  3. Start getting the support and strategies to help with your anxiety that you deserve!


Wellness Psychological Services is proud to offer both in-person and online therapy for the residents of Florida. We also offer couples counseling, divorce discernment counseling, support through a divorce, and mediation for couples.

Other services offered include anxiety treatment, trauma therapy, depression counseling, OCD treatment, stress management, and testing and evaluation services for individuals as well! Additionally, we are happy to offer eating disorder treatmentPCIT therapy, DBT, child therapy, therapy for professionals, and health psychology. Feel free to learn more by visiting our blog page or FAQ today!

205 S. Hoover Blvd. Ste 202
Tampa, FL 33609
(813) 563-1155

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