Social anxiety can be experienced as intense fear or distress often accompanied by physical signs of anxiety. In some cases this might bring on a panic attack. Some symptoms commonly experienced are:
- Sadness or nervousness before a social event
- Difficulty talking or performing tasks in public
- Anxiety about eating in front of other people
- Confusion and disorientation
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle tension
All of us have experienced some level of nervousness at the prospect of a social situation. Perhaps you’ve felt somewhat anxious before a speech or on a first date? Maybe you’ve been to a party where you felt shy and awkward at first but soon warmed up to people and had a good time.
Social Anxiety Disorder is more than being shy or unsociable. People with Social Anxiety Disorder want to participate and feel comfortable in social situations, but they are so overwhelmed by feelings of anxiety, often with an unrealistic perception that they are socially inept, that they cannot participate. If you can relate to these symptoms it is advisable to seek help.
Too many people with Social Anxiety Disorder don’t seek treatment and are never able to live up to their full potential and reach their dreams. Don’t suffer in solitude - help is available!
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
CBT has shown promising long term benefits in conquering Social Anxiety Disorder. This type of therapy aims at uncovering and changing the unconscious perceptions of danger associated with social situations. It also includes a gradual exposure to the feared situation until the individual no longer fears it. A fairly recent approach is Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy (CBGT) in which patients role-play and rehearse feared social situations with one another.
Progressive Relaxation and Coping Techniques
A psychologist experienced in this field of therapy can teach you how to control and understand your symptoms using various techniques. This can be combined with other forms of therapy such as CBT and has great potential to help you feel more in control of the situation – and therefore less anxious.
A number of drugs can be prescribed to help with the symptoms of social anxiety disorder. These include anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications and beta-blockers.
There are three main drug treatments available:
- Anti-anxiety drugs - Benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), chlordiazepoxide (Librium), clonazepam (Klonopin) and diazepam (Valium) create a sedative affect to reduce anxiety.
- Anti-depressant drugs – which include fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), imipramine (Tofranil), and escitalopram (Lexapro) adjust the neurotransmitter levels in your brain to try and relieve anxiety.
- Beta-blockers – such as propranolol are used to stop the effects of adrenaline (such as palpitations, sweating) – a key chemical in anxiety.
It is strongly advised that you thoroughly research any prescription medication and its side-effects before agreeing to drug therapy. Benzodiazepines, in particular, are very addictive and should be taken with caution.
Should you feel that drug treatment is necessary for you, remember that it should be done along with psychotherapy for best results, so that you do not have to depend on the drugs in the long term.
Natural Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies
Taken alone or in combination with psychotherapy, natural remedies for overcoming social anxiety disorder symptoms offer the same benefits as conventional medications, but without the disturbing side-effects and potential for addiction.
Tailored to suit your individual needs, natural products can help relieve anxiety and calm the negative physical effects of social anxiety disorder. Some well known and commonly recommended natural remedies for overcoming social anxiety disorder symptoms include Melissa Officinalis (Lemon Balm), Lavender and Passiflora Incarnata – to soothe the mind and calm the nerves. Some herbal remedies (e.g. Hypericum perforatum or St John’s Wort) have been clinically shown to be just as effective as many of the anti-depressant drugs.
Taken over time, they can balance brain chemistry and prevent the overwhelming symptoms of anxiety from occurring in the first place.