Medication for Social Anxiety (Social Phobia)

By Frank DiVincenzo, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
July 12, 2022

Are you struggling with social anxiety? If so, you’re not alone. 

It is estimated that nearly 12.1% of US adults suffer from social anxiety disorder (or social phobia), a condition that can make everyday activities impossible.

Thankfully, there are treatments available for social anxiety, including prescription medication. 

In this article, we’ll discuss what medications are available for social anxiety or social phobia treatment, as well as their side effects and benefits.

What is Social Anxiety (Social Phobia)?

Social anxiety is more than just shyness. It’s an intense fear of social situations that can cause physical symptoms like sweating, racing heart, and even panic attacks. 

For someone with social phobia, everyday activities like going to work or school, grocery shopping, or even just making small talk can be incredibly difficult. 

While shyness is a normal part of life, social anxiety disorder is a diagnosable condition that can be extremely debilitating. 

The cause of social anxiety disorder is not fully understood, but it is thought to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 

It is more common in people who have a family history of anxiety or other mental health disorders, and it may be triggered by traumatic events such as bullying, teasing, or public embarrassment.

There are different types of social anxiety disorder, but all share the common symptoms of intense fear or anxiety in social situations. 

This fear may be so severe that it leads to avoidance of social situations altogether, which can have a major impact on quality of life.

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How Common is Social Anxiety?

Social anxiety disorder affects nearly 15 million American adults and is the second most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder.  

Social anxiety disorder usually begins in childhood or adolescence, although it can also start in adulthood. 

While there are effective treatments available, only 5% of people with social phobia seek professional help. 

If untreated, a social anxiety disorder can lead to severe impairment in work, school, and social functioning which can overall negatively affect a person’s quality of life.

FDA-Approved Prescription Medications for Social Anxiety

There are several different types of medications that can be prescribed for social anxiety disorder, depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that is commonly used to treat social anxiety disorder. 

SSRIs work by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain, which can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety. Common SSRIs used to treat social anxiety disorder include:

Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitor (SNRI)

Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are a type of antidepressant that are also commonly used to treat social anxiety disorder. 

They work by increasing levels of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain, which can help to improve mood and reduce anxiety.

The most common SNRI used to treat social anxiety disorder is venlafaxine (Effexor XR).

Off-Label Medications for Social Anxiety

There are also several medications that may be prescribed by a doctor “off-label” depending on the severity of your symptoms.

These medications include:

  • Citalopram (Celexa): An SSRI that is commonly used to treat a major depressive disorder but can also be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Escitalopram (Lexapro): An SSRI that is similar to citalopram and is also commonly used to treat major depressive disorder but can be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Fluvoxamine (Luvox CR): An SSRI that is commonly used to treat obsessive-compulsive disorder but can also be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin): A benzodiazepine that is commonly used to treat seizure disorders or panic disorders but can also be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Alprazolam (Xanax): A benzodiazepine that is commonly used to treat panic disorder but can also be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin): An anti-epileptic medication that is commonly used to treat seizure disorders but can also be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica): A medication that is similar to gabapentin and is also commonly used to treat nerve pain but can be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.
  • Propranolol (Inderal): A beta-blocker that is commonly used to treat high blood pressure or heart conditions but can also be effective in treating social anxiety disorder.

Risks of Medications Used to Treat Social Anxiety

While these medications may be effective in treating social anxiety disorder, they also come with the potential for serious side effects.

Some of the most common side effects include:

If you are considering taking any of these medications, it is important to speak with your healthcare professional about the potential risks and side effects.

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When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you think that you may have a social anxiety disorder, or symptoms like:

  • Intense fear of social situations
  • Avoidance of social situations
  • Anxiety or panic attacks in social situations
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Trembling
  • Heart palpitations

It is important to see a healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Treating social anxiety disorder is important not only for your quality of life but also for your overall mental and physical health. A healthcare provider can help you find the treatment that is right for you.

How K Health Can Help

Did you know you can get affordable primary care with the K Health app?Download K to check your symptoms, explore conditions and treatments, and if needed text with a healthcare provider in minutes. K Health’s AI-powered app is HIPAA compliant and based on 20 years of clinical data.

Frequently Asked Questions

What medications are best for social anxiety?
There is no one “best” medication for social anxiety, as each person may respond differently to various medications. Some common medications that may be prescribed include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), and beta-blockers.
Does medication fix social anxiety?
While medication can be effective in reducing symptoms of social anxiety, it is not a cure. Medication should be used in conjunction with other treatment methods, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), to help you manage your social anxiety.
What are the most common symptoms of social anxiety?
The most common symptoms of social anxiety include intense fear, avoidance of social situations, and anxiety or panic attacks in social situations. Other symptoms may include nausea, sweating, trembling, heart palpitations, and dizziness.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Frank DiVincenzo, MD

Dr. Frank DiVincenzo has been a physician with K Health since 2020. He grew up near Chicago, Illinois, but left the big city to go to college and then attend graduate school in Missouri. He received a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and a Master of Science in Microbiology before graduating from the University of Missouri–Columbia School of Medicine.