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Social Anxiety Treatment

THE TREATMENT OF SOCIAL ANXIETY

The prognosis for diagnosed social phobics is excellent, with a reported 90% of treated patients experiencing a significant reduction in symptoms.  Treatment usually takes one of two approaches, therapeutic and medicinal, and often combines the two.   Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), especially done in the context of group therapy, works to alleviate the psychological and behavioral components contributing to the disorder.  Medications, such as benzodiazepines, MAOIs, and the antidepressant SSRIs, can also work to control social anxiety, especially when coupled with a good therapeutic program.   
Medications

The first approach to treatment of social anxiety disorder usually involves the prescription of a psychopharmaceutical drug by a physician or psychiatrist. Typically an anxiolytic or benzodiazepine (such as Xanax)  is prescribed for situational relief.  For more chronic cases, it is common that an antidepressant (or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor such as Paxil)  is used to target the biological production and/or absorption of the neurochemical serotonin. While the psychopharmaceutical armament is effective, there is no single drug that offers total relief or a cure. It should be noted that efficacy and side effects (including sexual dysfunction) vary widely amongst individuals.

Visitors should be aware that there is an ongoing debate as to whether anxiety disorders are primarily the result of biological predisposition (and thus amenable to drug treatment) or psychological in nature (and necessitating cognitive treatments). The general wisdom holds that both physical and psychological causation are coterminous and that medicine and therapy are inevitable partners in any recovery. Still, one will find strong advocates for both poles, with some stating that anxiety disorders are the result of flawed biology while others will argue that the use of medication is escapist and even dangerous.

 

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is a psychological treatment which trains anxious people to overcome their fear through the practice of a variety of exercises and coping techniques.  With social anxiety, group therapy is especially effective in that clients have the opportunity to practice their learning in a safe and sympathetic environment.  CBT usually begins with a study of the disorder, examining the situations that provoke the anxiety and the accompanying somatic symptoms.  This educational process sets the understanding for training in skills to alleviate and eventually conquer social phobia.  These skills include relaxation techniques, diaphragmatic breathing, the cognitive restructuring of distorted and negative thinking that contribute to social anxiety, and a programmatic heirarchical exposure to situations that precipitate anxiety.

 

 

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