Social Anxiety or “social phobia” is becoming increasingly prevalent. Social Anxiety is defined as a mental health condition in which social interactions cause irrational anxiety. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that roughly 7.1% of the U.S. population has experienced social anxiety in the last year. While anxiety is an important coping mechanism, it can be considered a disorder when it becomes excessive or irrational and interferes with normal functioning. For individuals suffering from social anxiety, everyday social interactions can cause fear, anxiety, embarrassment, and self-consciousness. These interactions may induce symptoms such as increased sweating, clammy hands, tremor, and heart palpitations. When placed in a social situation, a person will have increased anxiety which may lead to a panic attack. Individuals with severe social anxiety may have distorted thinking, and may begin to avoid contact with other people, leading to them becoming isolated. This may interfere with work, school, and personal relationships.
Unfortunately, the most common course of treatment for social anxiety in our society is a prescription for benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Valium, or Clonazepam. However, this is not the proper way to treat this problem and these medications are extremely harmful. Benzodiazepines are highly addictive and studies have shown that with prolonged use they will actually increase anxiety thus creating the need for more and more benzodiazepines to immediately calm the anxiety.
At PCH Treatment Center, our first step in helping a person with social anxiety who is taking a benzodiazepine medication is psychiatrist-supervised titration off the benzodiazepines (with very close supervision). It is common for individuals withdrawing from this class of medication to experience sweating, irritability, headaches, nausea, sensory distortions, and even seizures or psychosis. It is important for all persons with social anxiety on benzodiazepines to seek medical oversight when titrating off of benzodiazepines and seek proper therapy to start addressing the root causes of the anxiety.
At PCH we utilize many approaches to treat social anxiety. These approaches offer long-term benefits, rather than the short-term relief that benzodiazepines and other addictive substances provide. Our highly experienced clinicians employ psychodynamic and cognitive behavioral therapeutic techniques in the treatment of anxiety. Social anxiety usually includes depression, in which case psychodynamic therapy may be more appropriate, whereas more severe manifestations of anxiety, which can include ruminative thinking or behavior patterns, may be a better fit with our cognitive-behavioral track. Individual therapy is then supplemented with dialectical behavior therapy, mentalization, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and neurofeedback, along with multiple other group therapies that are selected to match with each individual’s particular issues.
PCH Treatment Center specializes in working with clients suffering from all manifestations of anxiety and gives you the tools to be able to reduce anxiety to a manageable level and get back to living a more fulfilled life.