Medications for Social Anxiety

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When it comes to treating social anxiety disorder, there are three types of medication that are commonly prescribed: antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and beta blockers. Each type has a different mechanism of action, provides different results, and is beneficial in different circumstances, but all can help ease symptoms of social anxiety.

Antidepressants

The most commonly prescribed class of antidepressants are SSRIs. These drugs are considered the safest and most effective treatment for severe and persistent anxiety disorders. Three specific antidepressant medications are approved by the FDA to treat social phobia--SSRIs Paxil and Zoloft, and SNRI Effexor. Other SSRIs that are often prescribed for social anxiety are Prozac, Lexapro, and Celexa.

Tricyclic and MAOI antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed for social anxiety disorder, although less frequently than SSRIs/ SNRIs.

Benzodiazepines

Benzodiazepines, a group of drugs that includes Xanax and Valium, are perhaps the most well-known anti-anxiety medications. Because they are fast-acting and provide nearly immediate relief from anxiety symptoms, they are a popular choice for treating anxiety. However, they are sedating and habit-forming, so they are usually prescribed only for short-term use or when other medications for social anxiety disorder haven't helped. Clonazepam (Klonopin) is a benzodiazepine often prescribed for social anxiety disorder.

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers are a good choice for easing the physical symptoms of performance anxiety. Rather than helping to control emotions related to anxiety over the long term, which is what antidepressants do, beta blockers control physical symptoms of social anxiety such as shaking hands and voice, pounding heart, and sweating. These medications work best to control anxiety related to specific social occasions, and are generally intended to be taken infrequently and for a short period of time.

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