Social Anxiety Disorder - Treatment Overview
social anxiety disorder involves psychological
counseling and sometimes medicines (such as antidepressants) to reduce
related anxiety and depression.
combination of medicines and professional counseling may be effective for
long-term treatment for people who have generalized anxiety and fear over many social
situations.2 For those who fear only one or a few social situations (such as
public speaking or eating in front of others), professional counseling to
overcome the fear may be all that is needed.
people don't seek treatment for anxiety disorders. You may not seek treatment
because you think the symptoms are not bad enough or that you can work things
out on your own. But getting treatment is important.
If you need
help deciding whether to see your doctor, see
some reasons why people don't get help and how to overcome them.
Initial and ongoing treatment
social anxiety disorder is based on how bad your emotional and physical symptoms are and how able you are to function in daily
activities. People who have social anxiety disorder often have
depression also. They may also have alcohol or
substance abuse problems. Your doctor may
ask you certain
questions to see whether you might be drinking too
much or abusing drugs.
Social anxiety disorder often goes
undetected for years before treatment is sought. By that time, you may have
developed behaviors that accommodate the fears. These habits or behaviors must
be overcome to successfully manage social anxiety disorder.
First, your doctor must determine whether you are generally
anxious about all social encounters or whether a specific situation triggers
Treatment with a combination of medicines and
professional counseling is often effective for generalized social anxiety
disorder (fear of most public interaction). Some people need treatment
throughout their lives, while others may recover completely after a period of
treatment with counseling and medicines
It is possible to
overcome the fears linked with social anxiety disorder. Working through
fears with a specific type of therapy-cognitive-behavioral therapy that
includes exposure therapy-may be the best approach for treating your anxiety.
It is important to continue professional counseling even if you are taking
medicines to reduce anxiety.
Types of counseling most often used to treat social anxiety
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps you identify anxieties and the situations that
provoke the anxiety. At first you may feel uncomfortable while addressing the
feared situations, but it is an important part of your recovery. Several types
of cognitive-behavioral therapy are used to treat social anxiety disorder,
- Exposure therapy.
You will be guided by a professional counselor to imagine you are facing the
feared situation until you no longer fear it, such as eating in public. Next,
you may go with your counselor to a public place and eat until, eventually, you
can eat by yourself in public without fear.
- Social skills training.
This therapy helps you develop the skills you need in social situations through
rehearsing and role-playing. Your anxiety is reduced as you become more
comfortable with and prepared for the feared social
- Cognitive restructuring. This therapy helps you learn
to identify and improve fearful thinking to help you better handle social
situations. For more information, see:
- Positive Thinking: Stopping Unwanted Thoughts.
- Anxiety: Using Positive Thinking.
- Positive Thinking With Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
- Symptom management skills. This therapy
teaches you how to reduce stress by controlling your breathing and other
physical responses to anxiety.
Supportive therapy. This
- Education about the
- Family therapy, to support loved ones
affected by your condition.
- Group therapy or support groups, to
seek support from others also diagnosed with the disorder.