What Are the Differences in Social and General Anxiety?

Have you ever felt like anxiety is holding you back in your career, or your life in general?

Anxiety is a mental health disorder that a lot of people suffer from, and it can prevent them from progressing in their career in the way that they’d like to. One of the most common culprits of anxiety in the workplace is social anxiety, but how do you know whether you really do suffer from social anxiety, or on the other hand, generalized anxiety disorder?

Learning how to identify your symptoms and differentiate between social and generalized anxiety is an important part of getting the help you need so that your career and the rest of your life can flourish.

A businesswoman is suffering from anxiety attack

The following are some ways to understand the difference between social anxiety and general anxiety.

Symptoms of GAD

The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or GAD include worrying excessively about any number of things. You may worry about many things all at once, or you might fixate on certain things, such as money or work. You may have a pessimistic attitude toward life in general, and feel like despite your best efforts you can’t control your worry.

Many of the symptoms of GAD are physical as well including fatigue, headaches, sleep problems, and restlessness. You may also find that you’re excessively irritable.

Symptoms of SAD

Social anxiety disorder or SAD does share some things in common with GAD including the worrying and the inability to control that worry, but there are differences as well.

With social anxiety, it’s always triggered by something social. If you’re at work and have to speak with your boss or even just a co-worker, you may have extreme and irrational worry. It’s something that you know everyone else around you does on a regular basis, but you may have intense fear and even panic leading up to the interaction.

If you’re faced with a social situation that makes you uncomfortable, you may have physical symptoms like shallow breathing, sweating, a rapid heart rate or flushing of the face.

It should be noted that you can have both social and generalized anxiety disorder.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD)


With generalized anxiety disorder, you may worry about relationships, but it tends to be more like whether or not you’re ruining your relationship with your spouse, or you’re making the right decisions for your children, as examples.

Social anxiety isn’t so much about the existing relationships you already have. Someone with social anxiety disorder is more likely to feel the anxiety and excessive worry when they’re meeting new people, or they’re in a situation with a lot of people, such as at a work function.

The fear is more about embarrassing yourself or having people judge you when you have SAD, while with GAD the worry can be more about the state of the relationships you’re involved in.

If you only have SAD, you’re not likely to have many worries about the present relationships in your life since you’re more comfortable than you would be with meeting new people.

Finally, both GAD and SAD can lead to a lot of avoidance, and within your career that avoidance can be what holds you back. For example, you might be avoiding opportunities if you have GAD because you worry you’re not good enough, and with SAD it could be because you don’t want to meet new people, which would be required of those opportunities. It’s important to assess your symptoms and seek professional treatment whether you have GAD or SAD so that you can have a fulfilling career and personal life.