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Social Anxiety Disorder: Treatment, Procedure, Cost and Side Effects

Last Updated: Jul 22, 2021

What is the treatment?

Psychological counseling such as cognitive behavioral therapy and self control are the two most effective treatments for social phobia. Some of the best techniques for fighting social phobia are to avoid negative thoughts, deep breathing and facing the social situations you fear. Personality development is also an effective method of treating social anxiety disorder. Work on your communication skill, interact with new people, take social classes and volunteer for working in groups or taking group therapy.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) or social phobia is a psychological condition where you feel intense fear of certain social situations. Since it is not a physical condition, the treatment for SAD doesn’t include medication at the core. However, medication is used in addition to psychological therapy and self control techniques. Some of the most common medication used in treating social anxiety disorder is Beta blockers, antidepressants and Benzodiazepines.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is also very helpful in treating SAD. Caffeine act as an active catalyst in triggering anxiety, so avoiding drinks that contains caffeine such as tea, coffee and soda. Also increase the intake of omega 3 fats in your diet. Quit smoking and drinking if possible or limit it to occasions. Proper rest and sleep also brings down anxiety level.

What does social anxiety feel like?

Social anxiety may look like normal anxiety at first but if the symptoms last more than six months then one might look for a medical professional for the treatment. Patient suffering from social anxiety often express common symptoms like:

  • Anxiety or fear in certain or all social situations.
  • Public speaking or group discussions.
  • Doing daily routine things in front of people.
  • Fear of being humiliated, judged, and rejected by others.
  • Trembling of hands and legs.
  • Sweating.
  • Shortage of breath.
  • Increased heart rate.
  • In severe cases anxiety or even panic attack in presence of an uncomfortable social situation.

What is the difference between social anxiety and social anxiety disorder?

Apart from its chronology, social anxiety and social anxiety disorder are two different names that are used to define the mental disorder. The terms were updated in DSM-IV back in 1994.

The new term was introduced to describe in more detail and generalized nature in terms of the fears that are one of the most common symptoms of this disorder.

The main criteria on which it was reframed is in the previous edition the social anxiety or phobia was described as fear of discomforting social situations. Further studies on the disorder show that social anxiety disorder can result in individuals' fear of a variety of different social situations.

How are you diagnosed with social anxiety?

One of the easiest ways to diagnose the disorder is via the presence of fear in specific or all kinds of social situations. Other symptoms associated with the disorder which can be easily examined are:

  • Show a rigid body posture, make little eye contact, or speak with an overly soft voice.
  • Blush, tremble, sweat, rapid heart rate, or feeling of “mind going blank”.
  • Nauseous or stomach sickness.
  • Avoid places with other people.
  • Feeling of embarrassment, awkwardness, and Self-conscious in social situations.
  • Afraid of being judged by others.
  • Find it scary to socialize, especially with the new ones, and have a hard time communicating even though you are willing to express and let your emotions out in front of people.

For an elaborative analysis of the disorder, it is recommended to consult a medical professional. Although social anxiety disorder looks easy to detect, patients sometimes find it hard to feel or accept their suffering.

Will my social anxiety ever go away?

The sustainability of the disease in your life depends on your trauma behind triggering the disorder, for some individuals the anxiety is acute and goes naturally as they grow up. Others might need professional help to overcome the fear of being in social situations.

In both cases, social anxiety is a treatable disorder. One can adapt some self-help techniques to overcoming acute and short-lived social anxiety disorder:

  • Practice breathing exercises, during anxiety episodes one may feel short of breath which can be managed by simple breathing exercises. Instead of fast and shallow breathing, try to switch it with slow and deep breathing.
  • Indulge in exercises that will help you relax your body and muscles. Physical fitness therapies like yoga and meditation will help an individual calm the muscles.
  • Try small, start from a person or small group of people whom you feel comfortable with. Try to indulge in small conversation and let it flow naturally.
  • Often people with social anxiety forget what they want to say while facing a public gathering, it is better to prepare the same beforehand. You can always write your speech or practice it before presenting it in front of an audience.
  • Try to put your foot forward rather than sitting at the back of a social gathering, try to gain others' attention to overcome the fear of judgment, humiliation, and rejection.
  • Focus with all your senses, during anxiety one might feel dizzy and not able to focus on the outgoing situation. Try to keep your focus intact to break the circle of fear.
  • Stay positive and think best, we all have faults but it's important to appreciate the good side. Appreciate and stay positive about personal individualism.

Are you born with social anxiety?

Genetics is one of the most common causes of social anxiety disorder among the offspring of the patient or former sufferer. Although infants born with SAD genetics don't need to develop into critical conditions without any external factor. The presence of disorder makes the children more vulnerable. Also, children with abusive or negative childhood environments often turn to be shy and develop symptoms of Social anxiety disorder in the later stages of life.

The signs can be seen in small children if the presence of SAD is followed by a dominating and unhealthy environment. But in case the anxiety builds after a certain age, it most probably starts to reflect its effects during the early stages of puberty. If not treated, it can lead to prolonged depression and chronic social anxiety which may or may not get worse by age. In some cases it cures itself as an individual matures, on the other hand, if not treated on time, severe cases may lead to other life-threatening physical illnesses like migraine, cardiac arrest, and even heart attack. It's important to seek medical professionals for proper treatment.

How is the treatment done?

A person who is suffering from minor social anxiety disorder, it is preferable to avoid medication. However, certain physical conditions of social phobia such as elevated heartbeats, sweating and shaking can be controlled by Beta blockers. They don’t have any effect on emotional anxiety conditions and are only used for relieving performance anxiety. Anti depressants are also commonly used by psychiatrist to prevent wasteful thinking and inducing sleep.

Treatment of social phobia doesn’t include medication as it is purely a psychological condition. The most effective treatment for social anxiety disorder is psychological counseling. Visiting a certified psychiatrist on a regular basis will help you in understanding your psychological condition deeply, its point of origin and what triggers the anxiety. Once you get a clear understanding of these, overcoming the social anxiety disorder is almost half done. There are a lot of self controlling techniques that will help you come out of social anxiety disorder. Few of the techniques that you can adopt in your daily life includes deep breathing to control anxiety, facing the situation that triggers anxiety and avoiding negative thoughts. The best way to avoid negative thinking is to avoid reading other persons mind and predicting the future.

Who is eligible for the treatment? (When is the treatment done?)

Almost every person get nervous and self conscious on certain social occasion but that does not necessarily mean they are suffering from social anxiety disorder. A person suffering from social anxiety disorder will have certain physical and mental symptoms. Always fearing that you are being watched and people are judging you, excessive self consciousness and nervousness leading to a mindset that it is noticeable. Physical symptoms include red face, shortness of breath, nausea, shaking, sweating and feeling dizzy. Person suffering from such conditions needs consultation.


Who is not eligible for the treatment?

As getting nervous and being self conscious is natural on social occasions. Meeting new people, public speaking and being centre of attraction are some of the situations in which people get nervous but that don’t make you eligible for treatment of social phobia. Only if these symptoms are constant in everyday life then it is a major point of concern.

How do you cure social anxiety?

Treatment of social anxiety mainly depends on the severity of the case. The two types of treatment that are commonly used:

  • Psychotherapy:

    Also known as talk therapy helps the patient to improve their overall social skills. The counseling sessions will focus on confidence-building in social situations. One of the effective therapy that is used to cure social anxiety is CBT or Cognitive behavioral therapy.

  • Medications:

    Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI), and venlafaxine (Effexor XR) is used for treating persistent social anxiety. Some of the medication that your doctor may prescribe are:

    • Paxil
    • Zoloft
    • Benzodiazepines
    • Beta-blockers

Are there any side effects?

As for self controlling techniques, there are no side effects on a person’s life as it can also be used by any person even if he/she is not suffering from social anxiety disorder. Psychological counseling is a bit concerning only if it is not yielding any result. It can have a negative effect on a person mind if psychological counseling doesn’t help you in overcoming your social phobia. Medication is always the last resort in treating social phobia as it has many side effects on a person’s physical and mental health. Getting addicted to anti depressants is one of the major point of concern. Apart from that both anti depressants and beta blockers have effect on your cardiovascular health.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

One of the best post treatment guideline for social anxiety disorder is to lead a healthy social life in order to prevent negative thoughts from coming back. Never avoid social situations especially the ones that trigger your anxiety. Avoiding caffeinated products such as tea, coffee and soda, getting proper sleep and rest to avoid deep thinking of future situations and fortune telling are some of the most effective and common post treatment methods. Quitting or limiting smoking and drinking as it is proactive in triggering anxiety. If you have any medication, then shortening the dosage over a period of time to finally quitting it.

How long does it take to recover?

there is no fixed duration for the treatment of social anxiety disorder. It totally depends from person to person and how deep rooted the cause for social anxiety disorder is. In some cases, self controlling can be used to treat social phobia while some cases can be treated by medication. As for psychological counseling, it may last for a month and can even go up to 6 months to a year. Some patients have recovered in only a matter of days.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

Psychological practice and treatment are very expensive in India as of now it is only limited to upper class. However, identifying and treating psychological disorder are now being introduced at the grass root level. Psychological counseling mat start from as low as INR 500 per hour and can go up to INR 2000 per hour depending on the psychiatrist. Medication related to psychological treatment comes with moderate price tag.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

Since social anxiety disorder is a psychological condition, it can be triggered at any point of time making the treatment partially permanent. However, elongated treatments are mostly permanent treatment in most cases. Some treatments are also backed by medication and those have the maximum chances of reappearing.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

if you are not planning to consult a psychiatrist or take medication then self control techniques are the best alternatives. One of the best ways to overcome social anxiety disorder is to face your fears that trigger your anxiety.

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Written ByMs. Taral Parekh Post Graduate Diploma In Counselling Psychology,Masters of Counselling Psychology,CE in Cognitive Behavior TherapyPsychology
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