Treatment And Medication Options For Social Anxiety Disorder
Treatment for social anxiety disorder is intended to help you function in your daily life. The two most common types of treatment for social anxiety disorder are psychotherapy , medications, or both, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Psychotherapy helps most people with social anxiety disorder, because it teaches you how to change negative thoughts about yourself. You also learn skills that help you gain confidence in social situations.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most effective type of psychotherapy for anxiety, and it works just as well whether its conducted individually or in groups.
In exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapy, you work up to facing the situations you fear most, little by little. This can help you develop the confidence you need to cope with anxiety-provoking social situations. You may also engage in social skills training or role-playing to practice your social skills.
CBT may even create positive changes in the brain. A study published in August 2017 in Molecular Psychiatry found that when those with social anxiety disorder participated in 10 weeks of CBT group therapy, it reduced the size of parts of the brain that process and regulate emotions. Scientists call this process “normalizing,” and the changes were more pronounced when the therapy was most successful.
Getting Plenty Of Sleep
Getting at least eight hours of sleep per night is recommended. Lack of sleep can increase anxiety and worsen symptoms of social phobia.
Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications that treat anxiety and depression if your condition doesnt improve with therapy and lifestyle changes. These medications do not cure social anxiety disorder. However, they can improve your symptoms and help you function in your daily life. It can take up to three months for medication to improve your symptoms.
Medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat social anxiety disorder include Paxil, Zoloft, and Effexor XR. Your healthcare provider may start you with a low dose of medication and gradually increase your prescription to avoid side effects.
Common side effects of these medications include:
- upset stomach
- lack of sexual desire
Talk to your health care provider about the benefits and risks to decide which treatment is right for you.
How To Know When Its Time To Take Medication For Anxiety
Until a couple years ago, I didnt think I was an anxious person. On the outside, Im easygoing. Im adventurous, spontaneous and social. Im not afraid of flying, public speaking or crowds.
But throughout my entire life, I have worried, silently and constantly, about almost everything. Ive worried about possibilities that I knew, deep down, werent at all rational. Ive always feared that worst-case scenarios would come true even though they hardly ever do.
I didnt realize that these thoughts stemmed from mental illness. Since I never had full-on panic attacks, I didnt think that I had anxiety. I thought it was normal to feel this way. I thought I was fine that is, until I went on anti-anxiety medication at 29 years old. And it changed my life.
Little did I know, I was one of the 40 million Americans adults dealing with an anxiety disorder about 18% of the population. And up until last year, I was also part of the majority of people with anxiety who dont receive treatment.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder
When having to perform in front of or be around others, people with social anxiety disorder tend to:
- Blush, sweat, tremble, feel a rapid heart rate, or feel their mind going blank
- Feel nauseous or sick to their stomach
- Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice
- Find it scary and difficult to be with other people, especially those they dont already know, and have a hard time talking to them even though they wish they could
- Be very self-conscious in front of other people and feel embarrassed and awkward
- Be very afraid that other people will judge them
- Stay away from places where there are other people
You Feel The Need To Drink
While introverts may or may not drink in social settings, feeling the need to have a drink in order to socialize is a key symptom of anxiety.
“An introverted or non-anxious person may drink alcohol to enhance their enjoyment of the cocktail hour, but could have a good time without alcohol,” Dr. Parks says. “An anxious person might feel they need alcohol in order to have a good time at all.” If you feel that you’re struggling with alcohol consumption, it’s important that you reach out to your doctor or a mental health professional as soon as possible.
Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know is seeking help for substance use, call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP.
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Unhelpful Thinking Styles That Fuel Social Anxiety
Ask yourself if youre engaging in any of the following unhelpful thinking styles:
- Mind reading Assuming you know what other people are thinking, and that they see you in the same negative way that you see yourself.
- Fortune telling Predicting the future, usually while assuming the worst will happen. You just know that things will go horribly, so youre already anxious before youre even in the situation.
- Catastrophizing Blowing things out of proportion. For example, if people notice that youre nervous, it will be awful, terrible, or disastrous.
- Personalizing Assuming that people are focusing on you in a negative way or that whats going on with other people has to do with you.
Tip : Face Your Fears
One of the most helpful things you can do to overcome social anxiety is to face the social situations you fear rather than avoid them. Avoidance keeps social anxiety disorder going. While avoiding nerve-wracking situations may help you feel better in the short term, it prevents you from becoming more comfortable in social situations and learning how to cope in the long term. In fact, the more you avoid a feared social situation, the more frightening it becomes.
Avoidance can also prevent you from doing things youd like to do or reaching certain goals. For example, a fear of speaking up may prevent you from sharing your ideas at work, standing out in the classroom, or making new friends.
While it may seem impossible to overcome a feared social situation, you can do it by taking it one small step at a time. The key is to start with a situation that you can handle and gradually work your way up to more challenging situations, building your confidence and coping skills as you move up the anxiety ladder.
For example, if socializing with strangers makes you anxious, you might start by accompanying an outgoing friend to a party. Once youre comfortable with that step, you might try introducing yourself to one new person, and so on. To work your way up a social anxiety ladder:
Dont try to face your biggest fear right away. Its never a good idea to move too fast, take on too much, or force things. This may backfire and reinforce your anxiety.
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Why Do Some People Develop Social Phobia
Kids, teens, and adults can have social phobia. Most of the time, it starts when a person is young. Like other anxiety-based problems, social phobia develops because of a combination of three factors:
The good news is that the effect of these negative experiences can be turned around with some focused slow-but-steady effort. Fear can be learned. And it can also be unlearned, too.
They Are Horribly Self
While most people will accept a bad hair day or clothing that may not be wonderfully flattering, those with social anxiety put huge emphasis on physical appearance, convinced that they are being regularly judged by how they look. The best response? Give compliments on their physical appearance tell them that their outfit looks good on them tell them that the color they are wearing is great praise any physical feature that you can. This bolsters self-confidence and creates a feeling of acceptance.
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Why Do I Have Anxiety
What causes anxiety and anxiety disorders is complex. It is likely that a combination of both genetics and environmental factors play a role in why some individuals are more prone to anxiety than others. Some events, emotions, or experiences may make it more likely for the symptoms of anxiety to begin or worsenthese are known as triggers. Anxiety triggers can cause panic attacks in some people and differ from person to person and so working with a mental health professional to identify what your triggers are and how you can react when faced with them can be incredibly helpful.
What Causes Social Phobia
Like other phobias, social phobia is a fear reaction to something that isn’t actually dangerous although the body and mind react as if the danger is real. This means that someone feels physical sensations of fear, like a faster heartbeat and breathing. These are part of the body’s fightflight response. They’re caused by a rush of adrenaline and other chemicals that prepare the body to either fight or make a quick getaway.
This biological mechanism kicks in when we feel afraid. It’s a built-in nervous system response that alerts us to danger so we can protect ourselves. With social phobia, this response gets activated too often, too strongly, and in situations where it’s out of place. Because the physical sensations that go with the response are real and sometimes quite strong the danger seems real too. So the person will react by freezing up, and will feel unable to interact.
As the body experiences these physical sensations, the mind goes through emotions like feeling afraid or nervous.
People with social phobia tend to interpret these sensations and emotions in a way that leads them to avoid the situation . Someone else might interpret the same physical sensations of nervousness a different way .
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How It Affects Your Life
Social anxiety disorder prevents you from living your life. Youâll avoid situations that most people consider ânormal.â You might even have a hard time understanding how others can handle them so easily.
When you avoid all or most social situations, it affects your personal relationships. It can also lead to:
- Low self-esteem
Treatment For Social Anxiety Disorder
The first step in treatment is coming to the conclusion that you could benefit from a little help. Interestingly, this is a lot easier said than done.
When you have a broken ankle, the obvious thing to do is to go and see a doctor for treatment. When your thoughts and feelings are preventing you from engaging with other people, though, its pretty easy to make the decision not to get any help.
A lot of the time, negative thoughts and biases convince us that the problems were having are our fault, that no one could help, and that its just something well have to figure out on our own.
If youre thinking about whether you could use help, though, thats a sign that you might benefit from at least speaking with someone.Theres no shame in seeking help, and there are a lot of individuals who talk with counselors and doctors about their mental health without even having a disorder.
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You Only Feel Comfortable With Specific People
While it may feel like a sign of introversion to want to hang out only around a specific friend group, this is actually a pretty common symptom of social anxiety.
“Socially anxious people often find themselves connecting with other people much more actively in situations where they have compelling evidence that the group likes and accepts them,” Dr. Morfitt says. If you find it difficult to make connections outside your close group of friends, then you may want to seek the support of a professional.
Try An Herbal Supplement
If you really feel like trying something medicinal, but aren’t yet ready to broach the topic of medication with your doctor or psychiatrist, consider trying an herbal supplement from your drug store.
There are many herbal supplements that are used in managing anxiety however, it is important to know that herbal supplements are not regulated by the United States Food & Drug Administration the same way that traditional medications are evaluated. Be sure to read about any cautions, warnings or medication interactions before taking an herbal supplement.
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They Will Want To Retreat To Their Safe Place As Often As Possible
One of the things that social media has given to people with social anxiety is a method of communicating that is not face-to-face. Instead of criticizing the amount of time spent on Facebook or watching television, suggest an occasional walk or an evening out with dinner and a movie. These activities can reinforce the thinking that a social situation outside of the home can be safe too.
If you make your own coffee in the morning, chances are youre only making the same boring kind everyday. Now its time to put an end to the cynical habit and turn you into an instant coffee connoisseur.
For those who dont know, there are officially 38 different ways to make coffee. All, except decaffeinated versions will give you the same buzz that can either make you extremely productive or give you anxiety.
The only difference here is taste. And when it comes to coffee, taste matters. A lot.
Most of the methods and ingredients from the chart above dates back hundreds of years and have been traditionally passed down from generation to generation. Hence, its actually possible to tell where a person came from based on the type of coffee he or she drinks!
They Respond Differently To Stimuli That You Consider Normal And Even Pleasant
Remember, research shows that people with social anxiety are on high alert all of the time. This means that noise, lots of conversation, and large groups of people can overload their sensory intake. They will retreat, shut down, or flee. A study conducted by Gottschalk, M.D. and Haer, Ph.D., published in General Psychiatry, demonstrates that sensory overload and social impairment are directly related, particularly in individuals who have generalized social anxiety issues. Thus, if you are forcing a socially anxious person to participate in such activities, you are presenting him/her with an almost impossible situation. Tone down the activities in which you are asking your loved one to participate, at least for now.
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You And Your Child Are Not Alone
Removing stigma from mental health disorders is critical for society as a whole and for individuals suffering from SAD in particular. Data from the National Institute of Mental Health show that as of 2014, 9.1% of adolescents had SAD thats about 2.5 million and about 1.3% had sever impairment as a result roughly 250,000. Which means there are literally thousands, if not millions, of families out there who can relate to what youre going through. Many of the links in this article will take you to website with a wealth of resources for you and your child.
In addition to researching all the information on those sites, following the recommendations of mental health professionals, and supporting your child with unconditional empathy, love, and compassion, we also recommend seeking help. Ask friends and other family members for support. You may be both surprised and relieved when you find wise and sympathetic listeners closer at hand than you ever imagined. Nothing can replace professional treatment, but one thing youll learn from the professionals you consult is the importance of a solid and loving social support network for a teen struggling with emotional issues. It can make all the difference in the world. Bottom line: dont be shy. Dont be embarrassed. Asking for help is the opposite of weakness. Its a sign of strength.