The Difference Between Autism and Social Anxiety

A quick Google search reveals that there are many people trawling web forums wanting to find out if there is a difference between high functioning autism and social anxiety.  Some sites list it as one of their most frequently asked questions and the answer is always the same: autism and social anxiety are two very different things.

The key difference is the source of these symptoms.  People with social anxiety do not lack the capability to interact with others but their fear of social situations causes considerable distress and can impair their ability to function. Their social skills are intact but they are too anxious or scared to put them into practice. This is marked by shortness of breath, shaking hands, blushing, etc.

Definitions of autism do not include fear of social interaction instead citing that those affected have problems understanding non-verbal communication and do not know the appropriate way to act.  This does not mean they don’t want to make friends, but rather that they don’t know how. Some symptoms of autism can be marked by repetitive behavior, obsessive preoccupation with certain objects, abnormal focusing skills, etc.

It is easy to understand why the two are often confused as they have many symptoms in common.  People with these conditions can be shy, avoid eye contact, be awkward in social situations and have bad communication skills.

Another difference is that social anxiety is not permanent – it can appear and be cured  later in life, or come and go at different stages.  Autism is a complex, lifelong disorder that is generally improved through behavioral therapies.

Many autistic people are not afraid of social interaction at all. Autism and social phobia can occur together, but they are completely different things.

For a complete list of autism symptoms, please visit our website here: http://www.icare4autism.org/what-is-autism/overview/

For more information on behavioral therapies, you can read here: http://www.icare4autism.org/what-is-autism/treatments/

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5 Comments

  1. Posted September 10, 2015 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Can I simply say what a relief to discover a person that genuinely understands what they’re talking about on the net.

    You actually realize how to bring an issue to light and make it important.
    More and more people have to check this out and understand this side
    of the story. It’s surprising you are not more popular since you
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  2. Jesse
    Posted December 27, 2015 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Not sure if I have autism and/or social anxiety

    I am 24 year old male with ADHD, just started ritalin la about 6 months ago, really helps with work but thats about it, i dont feel a high or any stimulated feeling at all, doesn’t even improve my mood, but really helps me focas

    Anyway, I have started thinking in the last few months if I have asd, autism spectrum disorder, my whole life social situations have not been my strong suit, i never used to fear social situations, but whenever I am in groups I just sit there and not say much at all, I try and smile and look like im listening, but deep down I just don’t care, i can see it on other people face like “wtf is he so quite for?”
    Its only been in these last few year I have actually feared social situations. Mainly because I am 24, living at home, only got a part time job in retail and I am not studying and have never been in a long term relationship, so I just hate event type things with people now because people always bring up relationships conversations or work conversations and I feel like I don’t have much to talk about

    I have very repetitive type behaviour and a little ocd, i seem to just do the same thing everyday, come home from work, play skyrim or halo. Lay on my bed for hours thinking about random stuff, then at night before bed I amoke some ciggs and listen to music
    I have always had a job since I was 17 and I have Never been on welfare so I guess thats something I am proud of, i just hate change, its the only reason I have a job still cos after awhile i just got sorta comfortable at target and never left, so it feels like if I lost my job I would feel lost
    I only like 1on1 type situations but thats about it, I just like doing things by myself, like at school if there were group projects and new what to do, I would rather just do it on my own without anyone interfering or changing my plan, only time I liked to work in a group was when it was about something boring or I had no clue about, so then I would just rely on the other person to do all of the work

    Does all this sound like I have autism?

    I played club basketbal from 200-2008, i was always a really great player and very fit (i used to play for hours outside shooting hoops i was obsessed”
    But when it came to calling out for the ball or making calls I was hopeless, i was like a silent player

  3. Anonymous
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Jesse that is like me now just try and be more confident and assertive. You will screw up but like basketball you will get better at it the more you do it. Study the art of deliberate practice. It will help

  4. Anonymous
    Posted May 30, 2016 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    Half the websites that I look up asks ” does you child have autism?” But what about the people who just want to learn about THERE OWN autism spectrum disorder or asberger spectrum disorder not there children so I think that they should not say children more like your interest because I feel like there labeling people with this disableity as stupid so they can’t read there own and learn about them selfs but that’s my opinion just saying I like that part about this

  5. Jennifer Schulze
    Posted June 7, 2016 at 1:12 am | Permalink

    I was misdiagnosed as a child and told I had acute autism. Reading this article and doing more research on social anxiety helped me realize that I had SAD. (Social Anxiety Disorder). I believe the more clarity that is provided regarding different types of disorders, the more personalize and effective treatment plans will become.

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