The best social anxiety treatments: In this article:
Social anxiety disorder is the fear of social situations, or more specifically, the fear of being judged by others in social situations. Someone who suffer from the disorder tend to be very self-aware in social situations and turn too much attention inwards in order to prevent themselves from doing “anything stupid”. Of course, it’s not easy to act or feel comfortable with that amount of pressure on one’s shoulders. This behavior often results in avoidance of social situations, and in the long run isolation and even depression.
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The good news is that social anxiety can be treated! In this article, we’ve listed the top 5 most effective treatments for social anxiety disorder (SAD).
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Social anxiety is at its core a disorder rooted in your thoughts. The way you think affects how you behave which in turn affects how you see yourself and the social situations you are in. This negative spiral can be broken if you learn to understand how your thoughts and behavior affect you. That is what CBT-therapy can do for you!
What is CBT-therapy?
Probably the most common treatment for social anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy. That is a form of psychological treatment that has been shown to be effective for several psychological disorders, including social anxiety disorder. It is based on the idea that our thoughts cause our feelings which cause our behaviors.
Some of the principles of cbt-therapy include:
- Identifying faulty or unhelpful ways of thinking.
- Learning how to reevaluate unhelpful thoughts in the light of reality.
- Identifying and changing unhelpful and counterproductive behavior.
- Using problem-solving skills to cope with difficult situations.
Having negative and unhelpful thoughts is often something that we don’t reflect on very much. The thoughts make their way into your brain and are most often accepted as the truth with little, or no, reflection. In CBT-therapy, this is called Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT) and one of the objectives is to realize when these thoughts pop up, and learn how to question and analyze them.
Another big part of CBT-therapy is acceptance. Acceptance of the fact that you feel the way you do, and that you find some situations more difficult than others. This does not mean you should give up on improvement and self-development. You’re not accepting that you can’t get better, simply the way you feel. This is more than anything a way of staying pragmatic and acknowledge the past, present, and future for what they are.
Another key concept is exposure. CBT-therapy is built around the idea that you have to face your fears in order to overcome them. However, you should not keep doing things you fear with the same approach you always have used – that has probably not helped you so far. Instead, CBT-therapists provides you with tools to first correct your negative thoughts and then ease into exposure by doing mildly uncomfortable activities first, and then slowly increase the difficulty.
How does CBT-therapy work?
Working with a CBT-therapist often starts with a friendly conversation about you and your situation, where the therapist tries to get to know you. They most often ask about your life in general, such as your age, living situation, what you do for a living etc. After that, they are likely to do a brief mental health assessment where you get to answer some questions form a questionnaire. This will help the therapist diagnose you and see if you do in fact suffer from social anxiety. After all, you might not be!
When the getting to know each other-part is over the therapist will start equipping you with tools and strategies that you can use to change the way you think and to work on your anxiety. You are also likely to get some homework to take out in the real world.
After this, the following sessions will probably be about following up on your homework, discussing your progress, getting more helpful tips and tools and then start expanding your exposure therapy.
Usually, it takes around 13 – 16 sessions to see real and lasting progress.
Online CBT-therapy as treatment for social anxiety
Seeing a therapist is great for overcoming social anxiety. But if it feels too daunting to visit a therapist, or if you live in a place with no good therapists – online cbt-therapy can be a good solution.
Online therapy for social anxiety works a lot in the same way as face-to-face therapy, but it takes place over a video conference instead of in person. There are plenty of good online therapists out there, amongst others online-therapy.com that we written a review about here.
2. Social Anxiety Books
CBT-therapy can be pricy. If you’re not ready to commit to that, or if you just want to know more about the disorder, social anxiety books can be the solution for you! There is an endless supply of books that help treat social anxiety out there. Some books are very direct and provide you with valuable information on how to improve and overcome social anxiety whereas others talk about mental health and anxiety in general. What book to start with depends on your preference and what your objective is. We put together a list of what we believe to be the Top 5 Best Social Anxiety Books. In the article, you’ll also find good tips on how to choose the right book for you.
3. Online Self-Help Platforms And Apps
There are also several self-help platforms and apps online to help you treat social anxiety. Some of them come from big corporations and some others from individuals who have figured out how to treat their own social anxiety – and now wants to help others. The price of these services vary from a few tens of dollars up to several thousand.
In our article “Overcome Social Anxiety Online – 3 Services That Can Help You” we review five of the platforms we have heard great things about. They include:
- Feels App – online self-help platform. Education, exercises, and challenges
- Sean Cooper – Social Anxiety Trainer
- OnlineTheraphy.com – Online CBT-treatment
What platform is right for you depends on what you need help with and how you prefer to learn. Some of them will guide you with personal videos and information, and others are built around exercises and challenges. Read our reviews to learn more.
4. Support groups for social anxiety
Support groups can help you to treat social anxiety disorder. The nice thing about these groups is that they often comprise of others who feel just like you. For social anxiety, the groups are also often quite small to make it less daunting to join. Usually a certified therapist or counsellor heads the group and guide the conversations. The objective of these sessions is to let the participants interact and discuss their challenges with like minded.
Finding The Right Support Group
As it’s core, SAD, is the fear of interacting with others, and a support group is probably the most relevant training you can find. But where do you find a support group?
Here are some tips on how to find a support group near you:
- Ask a therapist
Many CBT-therapists lead groups like this themselves, and if they don’t, they can probably point you in the right direction. Our first tips is simply to find a CBT-therapist in your vicinity and give them a call.
- Try Meetup
Meetup is an app that let people organize meetups of different sorts. In the app you will find get togethers on all conceivable topics from. Oftentimes you also find meetups organized by fellow SAD-sufferers that wish to meet others who have the same challenges to practice together.
- Look on ADAA
Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) list different types of meetups and support groups. Have a look at their website to see if there’s a support group ner you.
Medication is another solution to social anxiety. Before we go any further we want to make it very clear we’re not medically trained in any way and the information here should not be seen as advice for what drugs to take. Always consult a doctor before taking medication for anxiety!
Treatment of SAD through medication is often a last resort when other treatment hasn’t worked. What determines the specific type of anxiety medication depends on the severity of the symptoms and how much social anxiety interferes with the patients daily life. The duration of treatment would vary from individual to individual.
Different types of medication for social anxiety
There are different types of medication perscribed to people who suffer from social anxiety. They include:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
This medication is often the first set of drugs that are prescribed for SAD treatment because the side effects are mild, and they are easy to use. Due to its potent nature, intake of SSRIs should gradually reduce toward the end. Some of them are:
- Paxil CR (paroxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRI’s are another class of antidepressants commonly used for the treatment of anxiety. It acts on the neurotransmitter’s serotonin and norepinephrine, and options include:
- Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
This medication tends to make the individual more calm, happy, and to feel more relaxed.
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)
MAOIs are beneficial and comes with some severe side effects if the patient fails to adhere to dietary and medication advice. It is one of the most effective treatment when it comes to treating social anxiety disorder. Options include:
- Nardil (phenelzine)
- Parnate (tranylcypromine)
- Marplan (isocarboxazid)
This medication is taken orally and is best when faced with situations that trigger anxiety-like public speaking, meetings, etc. It works in reducing the indicators of anxiety such as fast heart rate, trembling hands, excitement feeling. options include:
- Inderal (propranolol)
- Tenormin (atenolol)
This medication is a mild tranquilizer that curtails the indicators of anxiety by merely slowing down the central nervous system. This medication acts fast and not recommended for patients with substance abuse. Options include:
- Ativan (lorazepam)
- Valium (diazepam)
- Xanax (alprazolam)
- Klonopin (clonazepam)
⚠️ As mentioned before – always consult a doctor before taking any medications.
👉 Have you tried overcome social anxiety online? Please leave a comment!