Social Anxiety Disorder

Medically reviewed by Carina Fung, PharmD, BCPPS

Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment

People with social anxiety typically understand that their fears are irrational18. Generally speaking, simply having this understanding is not enough to overcome social anxiety disorder. To do so requires permanently restructuring the brain’s neural pathways using a type of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy.

The two main methods of treating social anxiety disorder are psychotherapy and medication. The kind of treatment19 you receive will depend on the degree to which the disorder is affecting your day-to-day life. Talk to your healthcare provider to determine whether one or both of these treatments will work best for you.

Psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder

Psychotherapy, also referred to as talk therapy or just therapy, has proven successful in improving the symptoms of most people with social anxiety disorder. Therapy helps patients recognize negative thoughts and self-talk and develop skills to improve confidence in social situations.

One form of psychotherapy, called cognitive behavioral therapy20 (CBT), involves working with a mental health counselor to help you become aware of and respond differently to inaccurate or negative thoughts. This is the most effective form of psychotherapy for anxiety disorders.

Exposure-based CBT is often used for patients with social anxiety disorder. As its name suggests, this form of therapy requires facing anxiety-provoking situations and building up confidence in facing them over time. You may participate in skills training or role-playing programs to gradually increase your comfort level and confidence when interacting with others.

Psychotherapy is an ongoing process and often requires a good deal of practice and commitment before you begin to see tangible results. However, the benefits of treatments like CBT to people with anxiety disorders can be monumental.

Social anxiety disorder medication

Your healthcare provider may discuss some of the following medications to treat your social anxiety disorder

May be prescribed

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Medication for social anxiety disorder

Several medications are available for treating social anxiety disorder. The most commonly prescribed medications are antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as paroxetine (generic Paxil) or sertraline (generic Zoloft).

In some cases, the serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) venlafaxine (generic Effexor XR) may be prescribed instead.

To reduce the risk of side effects, your provider will start you on a low dose of medication. They will gradually increase your dose in order to give you time to adjust. It may take a few weeks to several months to reach the dose that works the best for you.

Other medications that might be prescribed to help manage the signs and symptoms of social anxiety disorder include:

  • Other antidepressants: You may have to try several different types of antidepressants before finding one that works the best for managing your signs and symptoms.
  • Beta blockers: You may be surprised to know that these medications are also prescribed to treat heart conditions. Beta blockers work by blocking the stimulating effects of adrenaline (epinephrine). This helps to reduce heart rate, blood pressure, a pounding heartbeat, and a shaking voice and limbs. These medications are most commonly prescribed to treat performance anxiety, not generalized social anxiety.
  • Anti-anxiety medications: Benzodiazepines are a type of anti-anxiety medication that works very quickly to relieve severe signs and symptoms. Because they are sedatives and can be habit-forming, these are usually prescribed for only short-term use.

Treatment for social anxiety can be long and challenging. It is worth it to stick with it, however. Many people see tremendous improvement when they commit to improving their signs and symptoms with treatment.

Disclaimer: The information on this site is generalized and is not medical advice. It is intended to supplement, not substitute for, the expertise and judgment of your healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard seeking advice or delay in seeking treatment because of something you have read on our site. RxSaver makes no warranty as to the accuracy, reliability or completeness of this information.

If you are in crisis or you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.