Difference between Social Anxiety and AS...

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Joined: 20 Oct 2008
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02 Jan 2012, 7:10 pm

Yesterday, I read a paper about that:


It is gated, but I will post some passages

Eye Contact and Nonverbal Behaviors

In both HFA and SP, researchers have documented reduced eye contact compared to control samples. In HFA, eyetracking evidence shows an atypical scan pattern for eyegaze compared to the inverted triangle pattern seen in typical controls (see Senju and Johnson 2009 for review).

Pelphrey et al. (2002) have provided compelling evidence that individuals with ASD focus more on the mouth than the eyes during face scanning. In contrast, in typical controls, the eye region is usually the focus. Evidence emerging from studies of infants at risk for HFA suggests a response to eye contact that is less specific than in typical development, but not suggestive of active avoidance or complete lack of response. Using home videos to track infants’ development of eye contact, researchers have shown atypical eye contact even before infants are diagnosed with ASD (e.g., Osterling and Dawson 1994).

Although these studies support the idea that atypical eye contact in HFA is due to early patterns of atypical social development, data on infants and young children with HFA is limited. Several studies have also documented a relationship between reduced eye contact and affective arousal, but typically with small samples (hyperarousal or hypoarousal) (Senju and Johnson 2009; Kyllia¨inen and Hietanen 2006).

Unlike individuals with HFA, individuals with SP exhibit a triangular scan pattern in their eye-to-eye gaze that matches that of typical controls. However, individuals with SP may avert their eyes more quickly than typically developing individuals and show fewer fixations (Moukheiber et al. 2010). Behavioral observation of adults with SP indicates reduced eye contact and other body language that communicates nervousness, rather than markedly atypical forms of nonverbal communication (Monti et al.1984). Although at least one study has found evidence that socially anxious participants do not avoid eye contact, this finding emerged from a study in which the experimental stimuli were neutral (not emotional) faces (Muhlberger et al. 2007). Thus, perceived stressful and evaluative situational factors seem to influence reduced eye contact in SP.

Other studies of friendship in children and adolescents with ASD have investigated the relationship between having co-morbid psychopathology and ASD with friendship quality. In a sample of children diagnosed with ASD,
Mazurek and Kanne (2010) reported an association between milder ASD symptoms and having more symptoms of anxiety and depression, higher IQ, and greater quality (and more) friendships in children with HFA. The finding suggests a convergence of the ability to establish friendships with increased vulnerability to psychiatric symptoms. Having more ASD symptoms may serve as a buffer against insight into social rejection. A number of researchers have theorized that anxiety in children with ASD may stem from awareness of social deficits, and that this awareness is more prominent in individuals with HFA, who may have greater self-reflective abilities (Bellini 2004; White et al. 2009b). This greater self-awareness would explain the increased levels of social anxiety in highfunctioning individuals.

In contrast to the lower overall incidence and quality of friendship in ASD, socially withdrawn or anxious children usually have friends, but their friendships may lack the intimacy and synchrony of friendships between children who are not socially anxious (Schneider 2009). Schneider and Tessier (2007) investigated perceptions of close friendship in socially anxious individuals. Results of this study showed that control participants had a more mature understanding of friendship and a better understanding of the intimacy of friendship than children with social anxiety.

Socially anxious participants also focused more on their own needs in defining friendship and more frequently perceived friendship as a source of help than community controls, suggesting social cognition might be a partial cause of these deficits in conceptualizing friendship. In a recent observational study, passivity, neutral affect, and lack of communication defined the interactions of socially withdrawn children more so than control group interactions (Schneider 2009).

Friendship and friendship quality deficits appear similar in HFA and SP, but differ in that these deficits are more pervasive and linked to greater social skills deficits in HFA compared to in SP. Studies in this area have primarily examined HFA and SP populations separately, precluding direct comparison of the deficits observed. Reasons for deficits in this area begin from early in life in ASD, whereas profound social skills deficits may not appear in SP until symptoms become severe or the individual develops a pattern of engaging in repeated social avoidance.

Although SP may emerge out of temperamental vulnerabilities (i.e., behavioral inhibition) that can start in infancy, a shy temperament does not imply social skills deficits, but rather avoidance of situations in which the individual would be able to practice social interaction and social cognitive skills.

The distinct etiologies for difficulties in social relatedness in ASD and SP suggest that studies comparing friendship quality and quantity in ASD and SP may not be warranted. However, studies assessing differences in patients’ understanding of friendship in HFA versus SP samples would provide clinicians with a greater understanding of how to assess the difference in motivation for and approach to socialization in HFA and SP.


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Joined: 1 Jun 2011
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03 Jan 2012, 3:03 am

I was bullied, but I think tortured would be a more accurate term, in school so I developed severe social anxiety. As a child I often did what I wanted without worrying, or maybe only worrying a little, depending on the situation, of the outcome. I was called "adorable and smart" by adults which gave me confidence. Enter puberty, get some boobs, can't fit in as superficially (style wise), get crazy hormones and I had some problems.

Rationally as an adult I now realize that I don't really care what one stranger thinks of me but it's always in big situations and I constantly recall the crowds of kids taunting me. So maybe (hypothetical situation) I'm having a problem at a store or restaurant with a rude employee. I want to stand up for myself and everything. If I look around and see a lot of people though it's most likely that I will not say anything, hate myself for hours (or days) while I think of it and wish I could be different.

Plus I am not good at comebacks. Occasionally someone singles me out (still) and insults me for an unusual piece of clothing or something. It was guys for a while (also sometimes strangers who are male yell sexual things at you for no reason) so I thought of a couple of good male comebacks. The next thing I knew I was being insulted by old ladies for not conforming to some type of female norms (and why they would expect someone of my age to fit in with them, doesn't make sense to me) and I had no available comeback.

Ai_Ling wrote:
The aspies with SA, there fear is somewhat if not entirely rational.

This is what I have to explain to doctors. They are like "are you paranoid?" and I try to make a joke "well you know what they say, you're not paranoid if people are talking about you". "Why do you think this or that person was making fun of you?" "Because they said an insult to my face" There were times when I've tried to handle some people's remarks as good natured teasing and heard back "I'm not joking, I'm making fun of you" or something to that affect.

When I told a MD that I think now when I'm singled out it's often because I'm alone he acted like that was fine since I had an idea of why. But how does that help me when I have had to and will continue to have to spend my life going places alone? It's that or stay home even more and I can't do that.


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04 Jan 2012, 1:31 am

Seashell wrote:
It's probably quite common for people with aspergers to suffer from social anxiety as well, since we often experience rejection or bullying due to our difficulties in social situations. My social anxiety developed because I was aware enough of other people's reactions to me to realise they perceived me as different in some way, but not self-aware enough to understand what I was doing to give them that impression.

This for me too, plus the fact that my parents (especially my mother) would criticize me in some way after every social event, or even if she saw me talking to someone (a neighbor for example) she would always point out something I said or did that was wrong (doesn't mean she was wrong, but it sure doesn't help with social anxiety when every wrong word or action is noted and you get criticized for it - and not in a nice way - either yelling or slap in the face). Sure I did say the wrong things, and probably still do (eventho I really try not to), and have a tendency to be too honest, or say things that I probably shouldn't, but it would have made it easier on me if I had been told nicely instead of yelling and slapping.

That's the way things come clear. All of a sudden. And then you realize how obvious they've been all along. ~Madeleine L'Engle