Generalized Anxiety vs. Social Anxiety: Understanding the Differences

Generalized Anxiety vs. Social Anxiety: Understanding the Differences

Nearly 20% of women and men (i.e., over age 18) in the United States have some sort of anxiety disorder. But only about half of them get a diagnosis and specific treatment designed to address their forms of anxiety.


Though you may be able to manage mild forms of anxiety with measures such as deep breathing and exercising, if anxiety interferes with your relationships or other aspects of your life, you may need help. If you’ve been in a state of chronic worry for more than six months, it’s time to seek help. 


Two of the more common types of anxiety you might have are generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). Because anxiety types often are found together, you may actually struggle with both GAD and SAD.


At The Soho Center for Mental Health Counseling, our caring counselors treat GAD and SAD at our offices in Greenwich Village, Manhattan, New York City, and via teletherapy. Most of the time, both GAD and SAD respond to the same types of therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), antidepressants, or other medications.

Are you challenged by GAD, or SAD, or both? The following brief helps you pinpoint your anxiety, so you can get the help you need.

Is it the world?

When you have GAD, you tend to focus on the circumstances of your life that seem overwhelming. For instance, you may feel unsafe, unstable, and worry about your future excessively. Usually, GAD affects the way you feel and react to multiple situations in your life.

You may feel overwhelmed by current events, for instance. Or you may feel that the system is "rigged" against you. Worries in GAD tend to be focused around:

If you don’t feel in control, or if the choices you face all seem equally unsatisfactory, you may struggle with procrastination. It may also be difficult to come to a decision on your own. You may always feel that you need a second opinion or even need somebody else to decide for you.

Physically, you may find it difficult to relax. You feel restless, have trouble sleeping, and may experience muscle tightness, particularly around the neck, head, and shoulders.

Or is it you?

When you have SAD, your anxiety and worry tends to focus on yourself and how you’re perceived by others, rather than the circumstances around you. You may feel overly self-conscious about how you look and feel uncertain about how to act in social situations. You may experience:

Your lack of confidence may translate into avoiding relationships or not taking career-boosting risks at work. You may also have physical symptoms in social situations, such as:

Unlike GAD, you may be focused on one or two social situations at a time. 

Or some combination of both?

You can, of course, have both GAD and SAD. Struggling with two types of anxiety may have a severely negative impact on the quality of your life. You may feel that your life is slipping out of your fingers and that you have no control over any aspect of it. This can lead to further anxiety and withdrawal.

Nevertheless, no matter how hopeless your situation feels now, it can and will improve with help. After your initial consultation, our team customizes a treatment plan for you that helps you differentiate between your own perceptions and objective reality. You’re able to reframe your thoughts and self-talk to help you achieve your goals and feel safe in the world again.

Do you struggle with GAD, SAD, or both? Contact our caring and sensitive team by phone or by using our online form for anxiety diagnosis and treatment. today. We also offer telehealth counseling sessions.


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