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Teen Health

Do You Have Social Phobia?

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How Is Social Phobia Treated? continued...

1. Medications. For some teens, taking a prescription medication can be an easy and effective treatment for social phobia. They work by reducing the uncomfortable and often embarrassing symptoms.

In some cases, medication can dramatically reduce social phobia or even eliminate it. Other teens do not react to a particular medication, and aren't helped at all. There is no way to predict if a medication will be helpful or not. Sometimes, you must try several before finding one that works.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved four medicines for social phobia: Paxil, Zoloft, Luvox, and Effexor. Although these are the only medications approved specifically for social phobia, other medications may be used successfully as well.

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.

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