Are Aspergers and Social Anxiety the Same Thing?
Both conditions deal with an innate inability or difficulty to communicate and interact with others. Both conditions have a negative impact on the social lives of the diagnosed. Both require specialized care and treatment, and both have little to no physical manifestations.
With so many similarities between the two conditions, it’s not hard to mistake one for the other. Some people tend to believe that aspergers and social anxiety are the same condition under a different label. On the other hand, some people recognize that they are quite different, but cannot readily pinpoint what those differences are.
But can aspergers and social anxiety really be lumped under the same roof? What are the differences between aspergers and social anxiety?
What exactly is Aspergers? And what is Social Anxiety?
As mentioned earlier aspergers and social anxiety both deal with a condition that impedes with an individual’s ability to socialize and interact with others.
However, before identifying the differences between the two conditions, it’s first important to understand what aspergers and social anxiety is.
On one hand, aspergers is clearly recognized as a kind of autism, and is defined as follows: Read More
Asperger syndrome (AS), also known as Asperger’s syndrome or Asperger disorder, is an Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that is characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction, alongside restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests. It differs from other autism spectrum disorders by its relative preservation of linguistic and cognitive development. Although not required for diagnosis, physical clumsiness and atypical use of language are frequently reported.
People with aspergers tend to socialize and interact with people very differently. They have difficulty reading body language and understanding the minute yet very important signs during normal dialogue. Because of this, they tend to say and do things that most people might deem to be rude or inappropriate.
On the other hand social anxiety takes on an entirety different definition:
Social anxiety is anxiety (emotional discomfort, fear, apprehension, or worry) about social situations, interactions with others, and being evaluated or scrutinized by other people. The difference between social anxiety and normal apprehension of social situations is that social anxiety involves an intense feeling of fear in social situations and especially situations that are unfamiliar or in which you will be watched or evaluated by others. The feeling of fear is so great that in these types of situations one may be so worried that he feels anxious just thinking about them and will go to great lengths to avoid them.
Social anxiety is, quite literally, born out of the anxieties and fears of the sufferer. They would much rather isolate themselves or seek the company of those familiar to them. They understand the minutiae of social interaction, but are sometimes paranoid by its inherent consequences.
It’s clear that both conditions impair a person’s ability to socialize. But while aspergers is a kind of autism, social anxiety is ordinarily categorized as a phobia. This greatly affects how these different conditions manifest in the real world.
What are the Differences between Aspergers and Social Anxiety?
Differences in Diagnosis
Aspergers and social anxiety differ in how they are diagnosed, although they deal with a lot of similar effects. Social anxiety is traditionally triggered by a direct or indirectly related event of great trauma. Sometimes, it’s a slow build up of many factors that finally climax in the sudden manifestation of social anxiety.
Aspergers however is different because signs of autism can be readily identified as early as childhood. Although child development cycles differ from individual to individual, aspergers is traditionally identified in children or youths in their early teens. This does not mean that aspergers cannot be diagnosed later in one’s life however, but the diagnostic approach is very different from someone with social anxiety.
Differences in the Root of the Condition
As mentioned earlier, social anxiety traditionally stems from an event that has triggered a deep-seated and profound phobia for social gatherings and interaction. In that sense, anxiety is the root cause behind many of the hurdles when experiencing social situations.
The sufferer’s ability to interact and socialize is severely limited despite strong efforts to do otherwise. On the other hand, aspergers does not rely on anxiety to manifest itself. It is a behavioral condition that stems from differences in communication, thinking and understanding.
Differences in Behavior
Another key difference is how aspergers and social anxiety manifest in anti-social behavior. Since the difficulties of social anxiety are leveraged on the feeling of fear, discomfort and anxiety, the sufferer is very aware of his or her social inadequacies.
It is very different when dealing with aspergers. While individuals with social anxiety tend to avoid social interaction, people with aspergers might embrace it wholeheartedly, but in a way that isn’t entirely acceptable. People with aspergers are normally misunderstood to be tactless, rude and inappropriate.
They tend to understand things in the wrong context, and are known to speak out of line. However, people with social anxiety are overburdened by the feeling of embarrassment and humiliation.
Differences in Brain Function
Neurologists have also managed to successfully map differences in the brain of those suffering from aspergers and from those suffering from social anxiety.
Studies of various brain functions have showed that the emotional center of the brain (known as the amygdala) is turned on when an individual is trying to process facial expressions. For people with aspergers however, the cerebral center for judgement, planning and organization (known as the prefrontal cortex) is used instead. This only further proved that people who suffer from aspergers use logic and rational during social interaction rather than basic human emotion.
Despite of or because of these key differences between social anxiety and aspergers, the fact remains that these are two serious conditions that still require further research and understanding on how to treat, deal and offer a long and satisfying life to those who suffer from it.