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Treating Social Anxiety Disorder

Two effective forms of treatment are available for social anxiety disorder:
Medications include antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as well as drugs known as high-potency benzodiazepines.
Some people with a form of social anxiety disorder called performance phobia have been helped by beta blockers, which are more commonly used to control high blood pressure.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is also useful in treating social anxiety disorder. The central component of this treatment is exposure therapy, which involves helping patients gradually become more comfortable with situations that frighten them. The exposure process often involves three stages. The first involves introducing people to the feared situation. The second is to increase the risk for disapproval in that situation so people build confidence in their ability to handle rejection or criticism. The third stage involves teaching people techniques to cope with disapproval. In this stage, people imagine their worst fear and are encouraged to develop constructive responses to their fear and perceived disapproval.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for social anxiety disorder also includes anxiety management training -- for example, teaching people techniques such as deep breathing to control their anxiety. Another important aspect of treatment is called cognitive restructuring, which involves helping individuals identify their misjudgments and develop more realistic expectations of the likelihood of danger in social situations.
Supportive therapy, such as group therapy or couples or family therapy to educate significant others about the disorder, is also helpful. Sometimes, people with social anxiety disorder also benefit from social skills training.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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