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Do You Have Social Phobia?

How Is Social Phobia Treated? continued...

The advantage of medications is that they are easy, and are taken just once a day. But there are some downsides.

First, medication only treats symptoms. If you stop taking it, social phobia symptoms can return. Second, many teens have side effects from anxiety medications. They may include headache, stomachache, nausea, and sleep difficulties.

Also, the FDA-approved medicines for social phobia, like all medicines that are also used to treat depression, carry a warning from the FDA . The FDA warns that they may paradoxically cause or worsen suicidal thoughts or behaviors in young people under age 24. Therefore, teens who take these medicines should be monitored closely for changes in thoughts about suicide.

For many teens, the advantages of medications outweigh the disadvantages. This is a choice that must be weighed by you, your doctor, and your parents.

If you take a medication for social phobia, call your doctor immediately if you develop any side effects, including feeling down and depressed. And never stop taking any anxiety medication without talking to your doctor first. Suddenly stopping an anxiety medication may cause serious side effects.

2. Behavioral Therapy. Behavioral therapy with a trained therapist can help you identify and change the fearful thinking that makes you anxious in social situations.

A type of behavioral therapy called exposure therapy is frequently used for social phobia. Exposure therapy works by gradually exposing you to social situations that are uncomfortable and waiting until you feel comfortable. During this process, your brain is learning that a social situation you were afraid of is actually not so bad.

Most therapists who practice exposure therapy begin with small exposures to uncomfortable situations, then move on to more difficult exposures once you feel comfortable. The advantage of this therapy is that you are treating the underlying problem, not just the symptoms of social phobia. So if you stop behavioral therapy, the chance of your social phobia symptoms returning is less likely.

Other Therapies for Social Phobia

Other therapies have also been tried for treating social phobia. They include:

Relaxation Therapy. With this therapeutic approach, you learn techniques for relaxing like doing breathing exercises and meditation. Although relaxation therapy may help with some specific social phobias, it is not considered effective treatment for general social phobia.

Beta-blockers. These medications are used to treat high blood pressure or other heart problems. Yet beta-blockers are also effective for treating some people with a specific type of social phobia called "performance social anxiety." This is when you are afraid of performing, like giving a public speech. Beta-blockers are not effective for treating general social phobia. But they may help if fear of a specific circumstance, occurring at a specific, predictable time -- like giving a speech to a class -- is your problem.

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