Many types of mental health conditions have overlapping symptoms which can make it difficult for people to understand what they’re really dealing with. Social anxiety and agoraphobia are two types of disorders that are often confused with one another. Although there are similarities between the two, in order to get the proper treatment it’s important to understand the differences. Let’s look more closely at these mental health challenges.


Agoraphobia is often defined as a mental health disorder manifested in anxiety or avoidance of open spaces, enclosed spaces, crowds, waiting in lines, being away from home, public transportation, or being out in public alone. Mental health professionals cite that the main characteristic of agoraphobia is that the fear and panic being experienced are disproportionate to the actual situation. This condition can manifest physically as a racing heart, sweating, heavy breathing, stomach upset, headache, dizziness, feeling like dying, and other symptoms.

Severe agoraphobia will often result in the individual avoiding all situations which trigger these symptoms. This can lead to rarely leaving the house. The isolation that results can also lead to other mental health challenges such as depression and unhealthy coping mechanisms.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social Anxiety Disorder is a mental health condition that is rooted in fear of embarrassment in front of others. This disorder is signified by extreme feelings of anxiety when in social situations. The result is that social situations become very stressful and troubling or a person will manage their life in such a way as to avoid social situations at any cost. The National Institute for Mental Health cites that Social Anxiety Disorder can affect work, school, and other activities, and make it difficult to maintain relationships. Social anxiety is often treated with social anxiety exposure therapy.

Shared Characteristics of Panic

Although these are two distinct mental health challenges, the disorders do share some characteristics. Most notably, both conditions can result in panic attacks. Social Anxiety Disorder, agoraphobia, and panic disorders are often confused with one another. This is one reason why it’s important to get a professional evaluation so that you can properly diagnose which type of problem you’re dealing with and get the proper treatment.

A panic attack is signified by sudden fear and worry along with increased heart rate, a feeling of impending doom, shortness of breath, and even nausea. Panic attacks can be so unsettling that they can trigger further anxiety over having future panic attacks as well.

We’ve outlined some basic information on Social Anxiety Disorder and agoraphobia. If you’d like to learn more about social anxiety exposure therapy or you need help with mental health challenges, please contact us today. We at Trauma Healing NW are here for your mental health needs.