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- Treatment Overview
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- See a healthcare provider or a mental health provider to get a diagnosis and discuss a treatment plan.
- Social anxiety disorder can be treated with talk therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes.
Untreated social anxiety can make you feel isolated, hopeless, and depressed. If you have thoughts of self-harm or suicide, call 988 (the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline) or 911, or go to the ER.
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When to see a healthcare provider
See a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of social anxiety. It’s important to see a provider if your anxiety is interfering with your everyday activities, like school or your job, or is hurting your relationships. When not treated, social anxiety can cause you to isolate yourself and lead to other types of anxiety and depression.
- A primary care provider, psychiatrist or mental health professional (a psychologist or licensed clinical social worker) typically diagnoses you based on your symptoms.
- You may be asked to fill out questionnaires about your symptoms of social anxiety, like the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale.
What to expect from your visit
Your provider or therapist may recommend therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a well-researched therapy for social anxiety. It helps you change your thoughts and behaviors in order to reduce your fear and anxiety. Working with a therapist, you learn how to identify and change negative thought patterns and to slowly face social situations with coping tools. After around 12 weeks of CBT, about a half to two-thirds of people with social anxiety notice big improvements in their symptoms.
Along with therapy, your healthcare provider may recommend taking medication.
- Typically, antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the first type of medication your doctor will try. Examples include paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).
- Another class of antidepressants, serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like duloxetine (Cymbalta), are also prescribed to treat social anxiety disorder.
- Beta blockers may be prescribed to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, which increase when you’re anxious. They’re usually meant to be taken to control your symptoms during a stressful situation and not on a daily basis. Beta blockers include propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin).
- Benzodiazepines like lorazepam (Ativan) and diazepam (Valium) are anti-anxiety medications that work quickly. They can be habit-forming so they’re prescribed for only short periods of time.
- SSRIs: paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), sertraline (Zoloft), fluoxetine (Prozac), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox CR), citalopram (Celexa)
- SNRIs: duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor XR), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
- Beta blockers: propranolol (Inderal), atenolol (Tenormin)
- Benzodiazepines: lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin)
Types of social anxiety disorder providers
- Your primary care provider can diagnose social anxiety disorder and may prescribe medication.
- A psychiatrist can diagnose social anxiety disorder and can prescribe medications.
- A psychologist or licensed clinical social worker can provide talk therapy like CBT.
Treating social anxiety disorder at home
Consider seeing a healthcare provider—either your primary care provider or a mental health provider—to get a diagnosis and a treatment plan. Common symptoms of social anxiety include worrying, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, and avoiding people and social situations.
You can also make lifestyle changes that can reduce some symptoms and help you feel comfortable in social situations.
Helpful tips for managing social anxiety
- Get enough sleep. Feeling tired can worsen anxiety and social phobia.
- Exercise most days of the week. Aerobic exercise in particular, like walking and biking, can help you manage your anxiety.
- Confront negative thoughts. Types of harmful thought patterns include seeing everything in extremes, only seeing the bad part of situations, and jumping to conclusions. Write down your negative thoughts in a journal and replace them with positive affirmations.
- Reach out to family and friends for support.
- Join a support group for people with social anxiety disorder. Participating in a support group can help you feel less alone, and it also helps you practice interacting with others.
Wellness and prevention
- Avoid food and drinks that contain caffeine, which may increase anxiety. These include caffeinated drinks (coffee, soda) and chocolate.
- Use relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation to help anxiety.
- Do deep breathing. Practice it at home and use it in social situations if you start to feel tense.