How To Treat Social Anxiety: 5 Ways To Manage Social Anxiety

Updated July 22, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Maria Abada, LPC

Social anxiety disorder can be a particularly frustrating mental health condition to have. Since social situations trigger social anxiety, this condition makes it difficult for the people who deal with it to cope in society. As a result, they will avoid any social situations that could trigger their anxiety.

Social anxiety involves fear of the prospect of having to relate with other people or being put in social situations where they are the center of attention. Most people who experience social anxiety are in a state of constant worry about being observed and judged negatively by people around them. This can cause them to develop a fear of social situations and experience negative physical symptoms when placed on them.

In many cases, a social anxiety disorder or social phobia can significantly limit one’s life and cause a decline in their mental health. Everyone deserves the best quality of life possible, and learning how to manage your social anxiety disorder will enable you to do just that. We have identified some of the best ways to manage your social anxiety disorder and improve your mental health. The frequency and intensity of the anxiety are most often used to determine the treatment of the disorder.

Common Signs And Symptoms Of Social Anxiety

While experiencing fear and anxiety is a normal part of life, people with anxiety disorders are burdened with intense worry toward everyday social situations. As a result, they may develop an intense social phobia. Common signs and symptoms of social anxiety include feeling restless around others, having a sense of impending doom, and having difficulty controlling their worry. Physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate, excessive sweating, or weight loss can also be symptoms of anxiety in patients.

If you are experiencing these signs and symptoms of anxiety, and they are interfering with your life, contact your doctor’s office to schedule an appointment immediately. Your negative thoughts, social phobia, and other signs and symptoms may not go away over time. In fact, they may actually grow worse. Your doctor may give you an official diagnosis for your symptoms. You may be dealing with a panic disorder as a result of a traumatic life event or physical symptoms of anxiety from a physical health problem.

Different Types Of Anxiety Disorders

There are several major types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder — characterized by intense feelings of worry or fear despite having little to no reason for experiencing them
  • Social Anxiety or Social Phobia — people with social phobia are highly self-conscious about participating in everyday social situations out of fear of being judged
  • Specific Phobias — an intense fear of a specific object or situation (e.g., having to eat in front of others).
  • Panic Disorder — People with a panic disorder experience intense fears that brings on a panic attack

Psychotherapy 

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Psychotherapy is a popular treatment option for people struggling with anxiety disorders and intense fears of social situations. It is advisable for people who deal with a social anxiety disorder to engage in psychotherapy. In most cases, psychotherapy can teach people how to cope with their anxiety positively. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is most often used in this instance to treat social anxiety disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors, as well as improving physical regulation. In most cases where cognitive behavioral therapy is administered, exposure therapy is favored to treat social anxiety.

Exposure therapy involves a therapist incrementally exposing their patients to situations that trigger their social anxiety and help them develop and implement ways to overcome their fear. Most cognitive-behavioral therapy treatments last for as long as 12- weeks and may require one or more interactions weekly. Cognitive-behavioral therapy allows patients to have a trusted, trained person to help them grow out of their fears. A psychotherapist is available to watch the process from a perspective that allows the therapist to identify what may guide the individual through an anxious situation and help identify underlying causes of the anxiety.

Psychodynamic Treatments

Another form of treatment for social anxiety disorder is psychodynamic therapy. This treatment is not so popular, but it has had beneficial effects in some instances. In psychodynamic treatment, therapists explore the individual’s childhood relationship with their caregivers. A psychodynamic therapist guides their client through the process of discovering the root causes of their issues by identifying patterns in their emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. Psychodynamic therapy focuses on quelling feelings of shame and guilt, which may be an underlying reason for social anxiety.

Third- Wave Treatments

Third-wave treatments refer to therapies that promote a holistic approach to well-being over the reduction of emotional and psychological symptomatology. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy  (ACT) is a third-wave treatment technique which is based on popular Buddhist philosophy. ACT can be described as basically an extension of cognitive-behavioral therapy. In the ACT, individuals are taught to accept negative thoughts to eliminate the power such feelings may have over them. As far as long term treatments go, ACT can be an effective solution to social anxiety.

Medication

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Medication is another treatment modality frequently used to treat social anxiety. Medication is prescribed by a doctor and is determined by an assessment. There are very many options for drugs to treat and deal with social anxiety. Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors popularly known as (SSRIs) are popular medications for social anxiety.

SSRIs are focused on increasing serotonin levels in the brain. One of the major contributors to anxiety is reduced serotonin transmission. The use of specific SSRIs such as Citalopram and Sertraline, help increase the availability of serotonin in the brain. The use of medication is an effective means of dealing with social anxiety. In most cases, patients respond to the use of the drug within eight to twelve weeks of using it.

Another form of medication that can be used to manage and treat social anxiety is Beta-Blockers. Beta Blockers are popularly used to treat people with heart diseases. However, some Beta Blockers like Propranolol is commonly used to manage the symptoms of social anxiety. Some individuals who deal with social anxiety begin to experience social anxiety symptoms before actual social situations. In most cases taking this medication just before a possibly triggering situation – which may be a party, for example – helps such individuals cope with these situations better.

Benzodiazepines are also used to help manage social anxiety disorder. Benzodiazepines help manage social anxiety by suppressing panic signals which run from the brain through the spine. By slowing these signals down, benzodiazepines can calm the mind down and thus prevent or manage symptoms of anxiety. In most cases, benzodiazepines are used to treat patients who have not responded positively to SSRI medications. When used half an hour before potentially triggering situations, benzodiazepines work effectively to manage social anxiety. Benzodiazepines have a risk of being habit forming, so treatments using this type of medication should be monitored closely to prevent a physical dependency on these drugs. Using this medication and eventually tapering off of it need to be supervised by qualified therapists to avoid a situation where there is a rebound of anxiety.

Self-Treatment Of Social Anxiety

Not all social anxiety involves severe social phobia or physical symptoms. For people with less severe social anxiety disorders, there are other treatment options available that can help them manage negative thoughts and other harmful behaviors.

A great way to start when attempting to manage social anxiety is to be less aware of yourself. One of the significant emotions experienced by people who deal with a social anxiety disorder is a false awareness of being observed. It is essential for people who experience social anxiety to focus less on what they feel is wrong with them and more on other people and their surroundings. If you can, you can select a particular individual to focus on to distract yourself from your negative thoughts. It is also important to remember that the physical and mental effects of your social anxiety disorder are not visible in most situations. It is essential to free yourself from any pressure that you may feel to be perfect and stay in the moment.

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Breath control is a great way to manage social anxiety and improve your mental health. One of the most common symptoms of social anxiety is difficulty breathing. Hyperventilation is usually the body’s reaction to the feelings of fear and panic. It is vital to slow down your breathing to regulate yourself. When you feel overwhelmed, the first thing to do is to find a comfortable place to sit down. Once you have located a place to sit, begin to inhale slowly and deeply for about four seconds. Hold your breath for two seconds, exhale slowly, and repeat this process until you feel better.

Another uncomfortable, but essential, way to manage your social anxiety disorder is to face your fears. Therapy, medication, and third-wave treatments all aim to help you address your fears. If you can, it is essential that you intentionally put yourself in anxiety-provoking situations. Avoiding social situations complicate social anxiety and can exacerbate it further. Exposing yourself to social situations incrementally until you can handle more extensive exposure can help you build confidence and provide opportunities for success. Every victory, no matter how small, is yours.

Frequently Asked Questions About Living With A Social Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorders and other mental health problems are often misunderstood. If you or a loved one is showing signs and symptoms of social anxiety, it is important to educate yourself on it. Here are our most frequently asked questions on anxiety disorders.

Is my social anxiety disorder curable? Social anxiety can be effectively managed and treated through mental health counseling, medication, and/or making healthy lifestyle changes.

Is panic disorder a type of social anxiety? Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder characterized by intense feelings of fear or worry that bring on a panic attack. When someone experiences a panic attack, they may break out in a sweat and start to feel intense chest pain.

Why do some people develop a fear of social situations? People can develop an intense fear of social situations for some reason. Environmental factors such as traumas can cause people to become fearful of everyday social situations. A genetic predisposition to anxiety can play a role, and even an underlying health condition may contribute to the fear.

What triggers social anxiety? For people struggling with social phobia, something as simple as meeting new people can be a difficult challenge for them. They may also fear public speaking or other events where they are placed at the center of attention. This social phobia and anxiety can even cause panic attacks in some individuals.

What does social anxiety or social phobia feel like? Some of the most common symptoms of anxiety include an intense fear of social situations where you might be placed at the center of attention. Some people may also experience anxiety and depression at the same time.

Can you beat your social anxiety disorder without medication? You should also avoid eating and drinking unhealthy foods at an uncontrolled rate. Learning how to identify negative thoughts and address them through professional mental health counseling is also important.

Can people with a social anxiety disorder improve their social skills? Absolutely! People who want to improve their social skills can employ a number of techniques. Practicing social skills in therapy or comfortable group settings can also be beneficial.

Are there support groups available for people struggling with their symptoms of social anxiety? There are numerous support groups available for people struggling with social anxiety. People can join them as a supplement to their treatment. However, joining one is at one’s individual discretion, and their effectiveness may vary from person to person.

Are you currently dealing with signs and symptoms of social phobia or social anxiety disorder? Learning how to manage your social anxiety disorder is sometimes more complicated than it appears. If you deal with chronic social anxiety, it is crucial to have a professional help you select the right treatment for your social anxiety disorder. At BetterHelp, you can receive the proper attention and consultation that you need from an experienced professional.


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