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Evidence-Based Treatment for Social Anxiety

The bad news: social anxiety is a disease of resistance; too many sufferers are often too embarrassed to seek help or do not know where to begin.

The good news: for those who do seek help, therapy for social anxiety sufferers has been proven to be very successful and the AKFSA website brings the information you need to better understand the illness and treatments available.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Clinical research studies have shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy can produce great changes for those with the disorder.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently one of the most accepted and practiced psychotherapies used to treat social anxiety. CBT is a research-based therapy, meaning its accepted strategies and methods come from numerous clinical studies that yielded high success rates and proven effectiveness. While treatment will vary by therapist and by the needs of the client, these are some core features of CBT:

    • Client and therapist work as a team, collaboratively developing strategies for overcoming anxiety
    • A focus on learning new skills and strategies to deal with the anxiety
    • A brief therapy consisting of usually 12 – 16 sessions
    • A focus on changing the present and looking at current cognitive and behavioral patterns, rather than the past
    • Client and therapist work together to create specific goals and agendas that allow the client to become his/her own therapist
    • Identifying and understanding thought patterns to gain better control and flexibility over them in social situations
    • Homework in the form of real-life experiences in between sessions that allow clients to practice new ways of thinking and behaving

Social Skills Training

As a supplement to CBT, many people find some form of social skills training very helpful. Obtaining practice and training in skills like speaking in public, carrying out a conversation and maintaining eye contact can be very beneficial and can build confidence and increase comfort in social and performance situations.


Several medications have also been shown to be effective in the treatment of social anxiety disorder. Some medicines have rapid but short-lasting anti-anxiety effects, whereas others may take several weeks of daily use to work. All medications have the potential to cause side effects, and any side effects that occur should be discussed with one’s doctor to see if they require changes in treatment or dose. When a medication has been helpful for social anxiety disorder, it is usually continued for at least six months to maximize the benefit. After a course of medication treatment is discontinued (this should be done carefully in collaboration with one’s doctor), some persons are able to maintain their improvement, whereas others find that symptoms return, to some extent. Medication is often used together with psychological therapies.

The most commonly prescribed types of medications for social anxiety disorder are Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Luvox, and Lexapro; Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Cymablta and Effexor; Benzodiazepines such as Klonopin and Xanax; Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs) such as Nardil; and various Beta-Blockers.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)