Medication for Social Anxiety
Social anxiety medication is a topic I haven’t discussed much on this site given that my background is in psychological and talk therapy.
However, I think it’s important to at least provide a list for you of the different medications used to treat social anxiety, for educational purposes.
Please note that I have not taken social anxiety medication myself, and so I can’t speak to the effectiveness from a personal perspective.
However, I do know that there is research evidence to support its effectiveness.
(*Note: We all know social anxiety can be hard to manage. This book on Amazon is the best I have found to deal directly with the problem.)
Whether you choose to take social anxiety medication will depend on a lot of factors, most especially the severity of your social anxiety and the recommendation of your doctor or psychiatrist.
Below I am listing for you the main categories of medication used to treat social anxiety so that you can be informed when talking to medical professionals about your options.
Please note that this is in no way medical advice, and that I always recommend speaking to your doctor about any form of treatment for social anxiety.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
The selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are generally considered the first choice for treating social anxiety because they are easy to administer and have fewer side effects than some other options.
However, there is also some risk of withdrawal effects when stopping SSRIs. As with any medication, you should follow the recommendations of your doctor.
Below is a list of the SSRIs used to treat social anxiety. Research from 2014 showed that paroxetine (Paxil) was the second most effective medication for treating social anxiety.
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Luvox CR (fluvoxamine)
- Paxil CR (paroxetine)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are a group of antidepressants used to treat social anxiety.
This class of medications has an effect on the level of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine and serotonin in your brain.
Below is a list of the different SNRIs. The same study from 2014 showed that extended-release venlafaxine (Effexor) was the third most effective medication for treating social anxiety.
- Cymbalta (duloxetine)
- Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
- Pristiq (desvenlafaxine)
Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) are a class of antidepressants also used for treating social anxiety.
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However, these medications have some risk of serious side effects due to interactions with certain medications or dietary elements.
For this reason, MAOIs are not prescribed as often for social anxiety.
However, in the 2014 study, phenelzine (Nardil) was found to be the most effective medication for social anxiety.
- Marplan (isocarboxazid)
- Nardil (phenelzine)
- Parnate (tranylcypromine)
You’ve probably heard of beta-blockers. This type of medication is taken in a different way than the classes of medication listed above.
Instead of taking a daily dose, beta-blockers are taken before a situation in which you expect to experience social anxiety.
For example, if you were giving a speech, you might take beta-blockers to reduce your anxiety symptoms such as a racing heart, shaking hands, or other outward signs of being anxious.
Although you might still have worried thoughts, the beta-blockers would make it so that your body would not show your anxiety.
The good thing about beta-blockers is that they don’t affect your mental clarity, so you can use them even when you need to be sharp and on your mental game.
- Inderal (propranolol)
- Tenormin (atenolol)
Benzodiazepines are also known as mild tranquilizers. You’ve probably heard their names in popular culture, such as Xanax or Valium.
These medications work by slowing down your central nervous system.
They work quickly and are usually easy to tolerate, but you can become addicted to them if used over a period of time.
For this reason, if you have any issues with substance abuse, benzodiazepines might not be your best best.
Below is a list of the benzodiazepines that might be used to treat social anxiety.
However, these medications are generally not considered a first line of treatment for social anxiety.
Other Anxiety Medications
There are also some other medications that you might be prescribed for social anxiety, though these tend to be less commonly used.
Hydroxyzine (Vistaril) is an antihistamine that also helps to calm you down.
Buspirone (Buspar) is an anxiety medication that works differently than all of the classes of medication listed above.
Again, any discussions about medication should be undertaken with your doctor.
However, I’d welcome any comments below about your experiences with medication for social anxiety.
Have you taken a social anxiety medication and how did it work for you? Please share your stories below!