What’s the difference between agoraphobia and social phobia?
I get this question all the time. That’s because the two disorders have some similarities that can make them hard to distinguish from one another. For example, both the agoraphobic and the social phobic are afraid to be in public settings. Both develop a similar pattern of avoidance behavior. Both experience similar physical symptoms associated with panic and anxiety. And since both are classified as phobias, both conditions can be successfully treated with a program of cognitive-behavioral therapy.
So what are the differences between these two conditions? How can you tell them apart?
The main difference between agoraphobia and social phobia can be found in the nature of the fear causing the avoidance behavior. People with social phobia are afraid of social settings that involve groups of people or crowds.
The fears of people with social phobia include the presence of or interaction with other people. For example, a person with social phobia would feel safe walking alone in the forest on a secluded beach.
Agoraphobia, on the other hand, is the fear of open and public spaces, in the presence or absence of other people. People with agoraphobia typically avoid crowds or social situations because they fear having a panic attack and embarrassing themselves.
But people with agoraphobia, unlike those with social phobia, would also be afraid to walk alone in a forest or on a secluded beach because no one would be around to help if they had a panic attack or medical emergency.
But the good news is, you can completely recover from agoraphobia.