Social Anxiety Disorder - Treatment Overview
Medicines often used for chronic, severe, or generalized social
anxiety disorder include:
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), to
relieve anxiety. SSRIs are often the first type of medicine used to treat
generalized social anxiety disorder.
- Venlafaxine, a serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), to help relieve anxiety and depression.
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), to relieve depression and anxiety. MAOIs have
potentially serious side effects when they are taken with certain foods (such
as some cheeses and red wine).
- Benzodiazepines, to relieve anxiety.
They are fast-acting. But they may be habit-forming and are not generally
used in those who have substance abuse problems.
- Beta-blockers, to
reduce anxiety. Beta-blockers are sometimes used to treat physical symptoms of
anxiety (such as
tremors or rapid heart rate).
Ongoing treatment of social anxiety disorder usually
includes continuing psychological
counseling and regular checkups to monitor any
medicines you may be taking. If professional counseling alone has not reduced
your anxiety symptoms, medicines may be added to your treatment.
If your anxiety is triggered by many social situations (generalized), you
may need continuous and prolonged treatment with a combination of counseling
and medicines. During this time, your doctor will need to
monitor your medicines. If one medicine doesn't work for you, you and your doctor may decide you should try another.
Treatment if the condition gets worse
social anxiety disorder, it is possible to progress
from debilitating fear of one social situation to having anxiety about all
social encounters (generalized). If this occurs, additional treatment is needed
that usually includes adding medicines and increasing the amount of
counseling you receive.
You may also feel
more anxious when you start professional counseling. This is because you are
thinking about the situations that cause you fear and anxiety. After the
situations have been identified, the fears can be addressed through
cognitive-behavioral therapy which includes
exposure therapy—gradually exposing you to your
If you are taking medicines to treat social anxiety
disorder, you will need regular checkups to monitor the medicines (such as
selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and their
potential side effects. The medicines may cause bothersome side effects that
may make your anxiety worse at first. These side effects may get better over
time. But if they do not, you may need to take a different medicine.
If social anxiety disorder is left untreated or improperly treated, it
can cause debilitating distress that interferes with daily activities. Physical
symptoms such as rapid heart rate, blushing, shortness of breath, and dizziness
can occur and need to be assessed.