Social anxiety disorder refers to the overwhelming fear of any social situation. It is also known as social phobia. It may range from public speaking, ordering in a restaurant, dating, or coming to parties. Whenever people cut themselves off from all kinds of interaction due to social anxiety, there is a high tendency that this might result in low self-esteem and depression.
“A person who suffers from social anxiety tends to think that other people are far better at public speaking, or hanging out in a social situation and mingling with others at a party,” says Johnna Medina, Ph.D.
If you are one of those people who think that sickness is already controlling and taking over your life, this may be the best time to get treatment. The type of treatment depends on the gravity of your social anxiety disorder. The doctor will take into consideration how much social phobia affects your ability to function in your everyday life.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
The most known and useful type of psychotherapy is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). In CBT, you are forced to face the situations that you fear the most. This kind of exposure will improve your coping skills and help you deal with anxiety-inducing scenarios.
According to Melissa Mose, LMFT, “Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is used to address the distorted perceptions and to reduce the overall level of anxiety. Various types of “Exposure Therapy” are also critical in order to provide both imagined and actual experiences of managing the feared social situations more comfortably.”
CBT also teaches you how to pinpoint and change the negative thoughts you feel about yourself. This kind of cognitive restructuring exercise is designed to identify your negative thoughts, measure the gravity of the fear, evaluate how they are, and come up with alternative thinking which will counter the original ones.
There are social skills training and role-playing sessions as part of your therapy. Some activities under this include lessons on public speaking or periods on teaching you how to navigate a party full of strangers. There are even exercises that will target some of your simple social skills such as eye contact, answering telephone calls, doing small talk, and improving assertiveness.
There are various types of prescription medications that may help address social anxiety disorder. Listed below are some of the most prescribed medications:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI) – SSRIs are one of the most common medicines for treatment due to ease of administration and tolerable side effects. There are, however, some complications that might arise with regards to withdrawal effects when ending the medication. Some SSRIs include Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), and Paroxetine (Paxil).
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRI) – SNRIs are types of antidepressant which act on norepinephrine and neurotransmitters serotonin. Some kinds of SNRIs include Venlaxafine (Effexor) and Duloxetine (Cymbalta).
- Beta-blockers – These are taken to block the stimulating effect of epinephrine or adrenaline. Beta-blockers eliminate the shaking of voice and limbs, reduce heart rate, and lower blood pressure. They are of best use in situations that require mental sharpness since they do not affect the cognitive ability that much.
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOI) – In the past years, this has been the best treatment for social anxiety disorder. However, MAOIs are not that often used anymore since they carry serious side effects if you do not follow the medication and dietary guidelines. Examples of MAOIs include Marplan (isocarboxazid), Nardin (phenelzine), and Parnate (tranylcypromine).
Always keep in mind that these medicines won’t show its results until the 3rd to 6th week. Just make sure to be wary of its side effects and get the attention of the doctor if there are severe negative results.
Although herbal remedies have mixed results when it comes to treating social phobia, there are still some individuals who use this.
Some herbal supplements, such as theanine and passionflower, have a calming effect but they are more often in other products as well. Because of this, it is hard to determine whether they help in downplaying some symptoms of anxiety. Valerian and kava, on the other hand, are known to lessen anxieties, but there is a risk of severe liver damage.
With all of these in mind, more research is needed to be able to understand the effects and risks of these herbal remedies fully. Make sure to talk to your doctor first before taking any alternative medicine. This way, it is assured that it won’t negatively interfere with the other medications you take.
Some of these additional treatments have not been scientifically proven to be directly treating social anxiety disorder. However, they are seen to have some minimal effects in addressing some of the symptoms of the illness. Complementary treatments include yoga, aromatherapy, and dietary supplements.
“Yoga engages the relaxation response, so needed by those with anxiety, an experience that includes racing thoughts and shallow breathing,” says Mary NurrieStearns, LCSW.
Social phobia might make you feel uncomfortable and might provoke anxiety when you’re trying to reach out for help the first time. Remember, however, that this is a necessity to be able to address your social anxiety disorder and positively affect your well-being in the long run.