A_Sarah – Social Anxiety and Autism

From www.healthline.com/health/autism/social-anxiety-vs-autism

Autism and social anxiety are separate conditions. People can have one or both, but because they have some similarities and relate to difficulties around socializing there can be confusion about how they differ. This can lead to misdiagnoses and incorrect treatment.

A key factor is that autism is neurodevelopmental condition and presents in early childhood, whereas social anxiety disorder is a mental health condition that can develop in childhood or adulthood and may be the result of life experiences.

Autism and social anxiety overlap in that they can both have symptoms such as reduced communication, a lack of eye contact and nervousness in social situations. But people with social anxiety are likely to avoid eye contact because it makes them feel nervous, whereas people with autism are not necessarily ‘avoiding’ it, but may be less inclined to make it in the first place. Similarly, people with social anxiety might deliberately avoid conversations and socializing because they fear being judged negatively. People with autism might find social situations challenging because they experience confusion and sensory overload in them. Some (but not all) people with autism may be less socially motivated in general and happier in their own company, whereas people with social anxiety experience greater feelings of isolation if they lack satisfying relationships with others.

Generally people with social anxiety have adequate social skills and can read social cues, although anxiety may at times affect their ability to fully use them. People with autism may have difficulty reading social cues such as facial expressions, and understanding tone of voice or sarcasm.

Autism is on a spectrum ranging from mild to severe, in terms of the impact it has on someone’s life. People with autism may typically develop special interests in topics that they become passionately fixated on. They may also exhibit behaviours such as ‘stimming’, which is the repetition of certain physical movements or vocalisations, thought to have a variety of functions including helping with the management of emotions and self-regulation.

Many people with autism, but not all, experience social anxiety, and there are many people with social anxiety who do not have autism.

Everyone experiences these conditions differently. If you are unsure whether you have one or the other it’s important to seek proper help and diagnosis from a healthcare professional, as correct diagnosis is essential in obtaining effective treatment.

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