Individuals with Social Anxiety Disorder (also called Social Phobia) experience significant anxiety when in social or performance situations where embarrassment might be possible. For example, someone with Social Anxiety Disorder may experience intense anxiety at the thought of going to a party or having to give a toast at a wedding.
Everyone experiences some degree of anxiety in social or performance situations, so the degree of anxiety must be severe enough to have a significant impact on the quality of one’s life or the ability to function in order for Social Anxiety Disorder to be diagnosed. Most adults with Social Anxiety Disorder recognize that the degree of anxiety they have about social or performance situations is excessive but feel they are unable to control it.
A common worry among those with Social Anxiety Disorder is that others will judge them as being stupid, weak, crazy, or anxious. Sometimes the anxiety associated with a particular social situation is so intense that panic attacks may occur when that situation arises. Fortunately, Social Anxiety Disorder, like most anxiety disorders, is very treatable and recovery is possible.
Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment
Social Anxiety Disorder can be treated with both medications and psychotherapy and there is some evidence that it may respond best to simultaneous treatment with both. With respect to psychotherapy, the approach with the best evidence supporting its use in anxiety disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) involves learning the connections between one’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and using this knowledge to combat the patterns that underlie ones anxiety. Because this approach has proven to be so effective, the doctors of Anxiety.org have created a CBT-based self-help program called ABCtracker™ that can be used for free on this website. The ABCTracker™ was created by psychiatrists and psychologists at UCLA who specialize in the treatment of anxiety disorders and is designed to take the information you provide it about yourself to create a personalized treatment program that targets your specific symptoms. Visit the ABCtracker™ page to give it a try.
Medications for Social Anxiety Disorder
The most commonly used medications for Social Anxiety Disorder treatment are called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Serotonin is used as a chemical signal between certain neurons and SSRIs make these signals stronger. By unknown mechanisms, this results in a reduction of anxiety. The SSRIs that are currently available in the United States are fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluvoxamine (Luvox).
Another class of medication that is commonly used for anxiety disorders including Social Anxiety Disorder is benzodiazepines. These medications are not as widely used as they once were because unlike SSRIs, they have the potential to cause addiction and can cause a potentially dangerous withdrawal syndrome if they are abruptly stopped after being taken on a regular basis for a prolonged period of time. Nonetheless, benzodiazepines can be very effective for anxiety and many psychiatrists still use them under certain circumstances. Some common benzodiazepines are diazepam (Valium), lorazepam (Ativan), clonazepam (Klonopin), and alprazolam (Xanax).