5 Ways To Manage Social Anxiety Disorder

Updated March 13, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Social anxiety disorder is a condition that affects millions of people worldwide and can have unique effects on day-to-day life. If you or someone you know lives with social anxiety, it's essential to recognize its impact and take the necessary steps to manage it.

Fortunately, several scientifically supported methods are available for managing social anxiety disorder to help improve the quality of life around family, friends, work performance, and more.

In this post, we explore five such approaches that could be beneficial as part of a comprehensive plan for managing social anxiety disorder.

Manage Social Anxiety with Proven Tactics

What Is Social Anxiety Disorder?

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is an anxiety disorder that affects how a person feels and behaves around others. People with SAD usually feel very nervous or uncomfortable in social situations, such as meeting new people, giving a speech, or talking to someone they don’t know.

They may worry about being embarrassed or judged by others. As a result, they may avoid social situations or endure them with significant discomfort. 

SAD is different from shyness. Shyness is a normal part of life that usually goes away over time. Social Anxiety Disorder is an intense fear lasting for months or even years.

What Causes Social Anxiety Disorder? 

The cause of SAD is not fully known. However, it seems to be caused by a combination of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, and life experiences. 

People with SAD may have specific genes that make them more prone to anxiety disorders. They may also have an imbalance of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Low levels of serotonin are linked to anxiety and depression. 

Life experiences also play a role in the development of SAD. For example, people who have experienced trauma or been ridiculed or bullied are more likely to develop SAD. Having parents or other close family members with anxiety disorders may also increase the risk. 

Symptoms Of Social Anxiety Disorder 

The symptoms of SAD can vary from person to person. However, they usually start during the teenage years or early adulthood.

The most common symptoms include: 

  • Intense fear of social situations, such as meeting new people, public speaking, or going on dates 

  • Avoidance of social situations out of fear of embarrassment 

  • Intense anxiety in anticipation of social situations 

  • Physical symptoms such as trembling, rapid heart rate, sweating, blushing, and stomach upset 

  • Fear that others will notice the physical symptoms 

These symptoms can interfere with school, work, and personal relationships. They can also lead to alcohol or drug abuse as people try to self-medicate their anxiety. 

Scientifically Proven Methods Yo Manage Social Anxiety

Social anxiety can be tricky to manage, leaving those with the condition feeling isolated and uncomfortable in social situations.

Although the exact treatment process may vary for each individual, there is hope as research has identified scientifically proven approaches to help reduce symptoms of social anxiety. 

Medication For Social Anxiety Disorder

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are the most commonly prescribed medication for social anxiety disorder.

SSRIs increase serotonin levels, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood, appetite, and sleep, in the brain.

They effectively reduce symptoms such as fear, avoidance behavior, physical sensations of fear, and difficulty speaking in social settings. Commonly prescribed SSRIs include Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), and Paxil (paroxetine). 


Benzodiazepines are another type of medication used to treat social anxiety disorder. These drugs work by increasing levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, reducing overactivity in nerve cells associated with fear and panic.

Benzodiazepines can be effective for managing severe symptoms but may also cause side effects such as drowsiness or confusion. Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines include Xanax (alprazolam), Ativan (lorazepam), and Valium (diazepam). 

Beta Blockers 

Beta-blockers are used to treat physical symptoms associated with a social anxiety disorder, such as trembling hands or racing heart rate. Beta-blockers block adrenaline receptors in the body, which helps reduce these physical symptoms without affecting mental processes or emotions.

Examples of commonly prescribed beta blockers include Inderal (propranolol) and Tenormin (atenolol). 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) 

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy focusing on acceptance and mindfulness. Mindfulness is the ability to be aware of the present moment without judgment.

Acceptance means recognizing and accepting our thoughts and feelings without trying to change them. ACT aims to help people live in the present moment and make value-based choices, even in the face of complex thoughts and feelings. 

How Does ACT Work? 

ACT works by potentially helping people change the way they relate to their thoughts and feelings. For example, people with SAD often try to avoid or control their anxiety-related thoughts and feelings.

This avoidance can lead to more anxiety and distress over time. ACT helps people become more aware of their thoughts and feelings without trying to control or change them.

Is ACT Effective? 

There is a great deal of research showing that ACT is an effective treatment for SAD. For example, in one study, people who received ACT reported less social anxiety and better quality of life after treatment than those who received no treatment.

Psychodynamic Treatments

Psychodynamic treatments are a promising alternative to managing social anxiety disorder. They focus on uncovering unconscious thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that underlie the anxious experiences associated with social interaction.

This form of treatment examines how a person's unique history contributes to their current behavior and looks for new ways to manage emotional conflicts. During psychodynamic sessions, it is crucial for individuals to talk openly and honestly about their thoughts, feelings, and relationships, as this will create an atmosphere of trust between patient and clinician.

Psychodynamic treatments can also focus on cognitive restructuring and providing skills such as assertiveness training, explicitly targeting anxiety-related experiences associated with daily living.

It may be an excellent choice for those who have experienced unresolved conflicts in relation to interpersonal interactions, as it centers on understanding underlying processes to recognize issues that may be causing distress.

Exposure Therapy 

Exposure therapy is an effective treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD) which helps individuals to confront their fear of specific situations or objects. This type of therapy aims to slowly expose a person to the situation or object they are avoiding to gain mastery over their fear.

This can help them to change anxious thoughts and beliefs toward those things, allowing them to manage their social anxiety disorder more effectively.

Following exposure treatments, people can gain increased self-confidence, improved skills in managing distress, and better-coping strategies that help reduce extreme avoidance behaviors.

Additionally, research has found that when combined with cognitive restructuring techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), exposure therapy can be particularly powerful in helping individuals overcome their fears and stressful situations.

Manage Social Anxiety with Proven Tactics


Through psychotherapy, people with SAD can gain relief and improved emotional stability. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is the most frequently prescribed treatment for SAD and involves practicing techniques to essentially “rewire” negative thought patterns.

This form of therapy also works on developing alternative coping strategies for high-anxiety situations such as public speaking or a crowded social gathering.

Other treatments include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

  • Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing (EMDR), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT).

These forms of psychotherapy provide different but equally effective approaches to managing SAD symptoms while helping the person develop positive relationships with others.

Benefits of Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder

Through online cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal treatments, clients can learn healthy coping skills that can greatly reduce their symptoms. Some advantages of online social anxiety therapy include improved life quality and relationships, healthier ways to address stress, increased self-awareness and confidence in social situations, and an enhanced ability to cope with upsetting emotions.

Effectiveness of Therapy for Social Anxiety Disorder

In addition to these benefits, research has also shown that therapy is a lasting solution for SAD compared to other interventions. With appropriate treatment from a qualified professional, clients can achieve life-long improvements from their time spent in therapy.

This research suggests that regularly engaging in online therapy sessions helps SAD sufferers respond differently when faced with certain social situations, significantly reducing anxiety levels.

Furthermore, they become better able to isolate and identify problem areas so that every step can be taken toward finding an appropriate solution. Finally, with each session, clients are sent home feeling more prepared to engage selectively and adroitly with others. 

Final Thoughts

With proper therapeutic interventions, however, those living with Social Anxiety Disorder can find successful pathways to recovery. For example, cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been found to be incredibly effective in helping individuals suffering from SAD to process their thoughts more effectively, leading to a sustained calming of symptoms.

Additionally, this form of treatment helps people develop the tools necessary to risk stigmatization and establish reassuring interpersonal support networks.

This therapy is to teach those living with SAD how to provide coping mechanisms when they are feeling anxious and how they can learn to proactively encourage themselves during these socially strenuous times.

When these objectives are met, it empowers the individual with an ability that no longer allows their fear or looming worry to take precedence over positive opportunities.

In conclusion, with long-term online therapy, SAD patients can move forward on a road that leads them toward confidence and success.

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