Social anxiety disorder is a psychological condition in which a person feels extreme fear and anxiety when facing social situations. A person suffering from this disorder may be terrified at the thought of other people watching them, or they may be afraid of being criticized or judged by others. This condition can be mild or completely debilitating, leading the affected person to stay at home as much as possible. Some social anxiety treatments may include counseling, cognitive-behavior therapy, or the use of prescription medications.
Counseling is considered to be among the most successful social anxiety treatments. The goal of counseling is to help improve the patient's self-esteem and social skills. Relaxation techniques may be taught as well so that the patient can learn to more effectively cope with being in social situations. Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation are popularly used relaxation methods.
The use of prescription medications has become the standard among social anxiety treatments and may be used alongside other treatment methods. Antidepressants and tranquilizers are often used to treat social anxiety disorder. Beta-blockers, which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure, may help to relieve the rapid heartbeat and physical shaking that commonly occur with this disorder. These types of medications may be used alone, or a combination of the different medication types may be used to help reduce symptoms and allow the patient to interact with others more comfortably.
Cognitive-behavior therapy is another of the more common social anxiety treatments. This type of therapy is designed to help the patient view social situations in a more realistic and rational manner. Patients learn to react differently to situations that normally cause stress and anxiety. The therapist works with the patient to change negative thought patterns for an extended period of time before slowly beginning to expose the patient to situations that once caused extreme fear or panic.
In many cases, the above social anxiety treatments are used together. Prescription medications may be used first so that the patient is able to be calm enough to leave the comfort of home in order to attend therapy sessions. Counseling or cognitive-behavior therapy may begin soon afterward. When the therapist feels that the patient has made significant improvements, the medications may be reduced or discontinued. Therapy sessions may eventually stop as well, although many patients decide to continue with some sort of therapy so there is a support system available if old thought patterns begin to resurface.