Social anxiety can really limit your life, and the typical treatments are not that effective. Try these natural study-backed remedies for social anxiety.
Social anxiety disorder is characterized by a fear of social situations.
When you experience social anxiety, you may feel overwhelmed by a persistent worry about being in public environments.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, roughly 7.1% of US adults and 9.1% of US adolescents were diagnosed with social anxiety in 2017.
Social anxiety is more prevalent in women than in men.
Twelve percent of U.S. adults live with social anxiety at some point in their lives. (1)
In short, social anxiety can limit your life and damage your personal and professional relationships.
People living with social anxiety are plagued by the thought of being judged or scrutinized.
They may be terrified of acting in a way that humiliates or embarrasses them.
Children display social anxiety symptoms differently than adults.
Children may cry, freeze, or have behavioral outbursts and throw tantrums.
Socially anxious children may have difficulty negotiating social challenges or participating in school performances. (2)
Ways to Eliminate Social Anxiety
Social anxiety is rooted in neurotransmitter dysfunctions and hormonal imbalances, but can be treated with therapy, diet, and supplements.
Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy have been somewhat successful in reducing social anxiety in clinical studies.
Many self-guided treatments, including meditation and tapping, can also reduce anxiety symptoms.
Lastly, there are several supplements that are useful in eliminating social anxiety.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapy are the two most common types of therapy used to treat social anxiety.
CBT identifies irrational views about the fear of social situations. (3)
Professionals who use CBT see social anxiety as the result of inaccurate views about self-worth, guilt, or embarrassment.
During CBT treatment, patients learn how to be more assertive, deal with procrastination, and become more realistic about perfectionism.
If successful, CBT treatment teaches patients how to perform constructively in social situations.
Therapy sessions foster a student-teacher relationship between the patient and the therapist.
The patient may be assigned homework assignments to practice new ways of thinking about social interaction.
The goal is to reprogram automatic negative thinking about the outcome of social situations.
Psychodynamic therapy is focused on resolving irrational fears and emotional conflicts that arise from past experiences. (4)
A psychologist can help patients identify events from their past that cause their social phobia.
These past experiences, for example, may have led to a fear of rejection or abandonment or a conflict between a fear of success and a need to succeed.
These situations can produce social withdrawal, low self-esteem, and insecurity.
Psychodynamic therapy typically takes place over a series of weekly sessions.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy vs. Psychodynamic Therapy
Significantly more research has been conducted on CBT as a social anxiety therapy.
Two recent studies compared the efficacy of CBT vs psychodynamic therapy as a treatment for social anxiety disorder.
In a 2013 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 495 participants were treated with either CBT or psychodynamic therapy in equal numbers, and a smaller number were put on a waitlist.
Remission rates were highest in the CBT group — symptoms were reduced in 36% of patients.
A remission rate of 26% was documented for the psychodynamic therapy group, and a 9% remission rate was recorded for the waitlist group.
The study concluded that CBT was slightly more effective for treating social anxiety disorder than psychodynamic therapy. (5)
In a similar 2014 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, CBT and psychodynamic therapy proved equally effective in the treatment of social anxiety.
Researchers assessed the long-term effects of both therapies on participants at 6, 12, and 24 months.
Remission rates were similar for both groups throughout the follow-up period, with a 24-month rate of 40% for each group. (6)
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Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), commonly called tapping, is similar to acupuncture and offers many of the same benefits.
In acupuncture, very fine needles are inserted into the skin to trigger certain pressure points.
Triggering these pressure points stimulates the release of endorphins to reduces stress levels. (7)
Tapping targets the same pressure points with finger pressure rather than needles.
These treatments can get rid of social anxiety by reducing muscle tension and addressing imbalances of hormones and neurotransmitters. (8)
In one 2013 study, “EFT was found to be as efficacious as CBT in reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.” (9)
Related articles on Be Brain Fit —
11 Benefits of Tapping for Anxiety Relief
Social anxiety can be made worse by chronic stress.
Meditation can not only restore balance to the brain chemicals that cause anxiety, it can also reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol. (10)
Increasing GABA levels is another way that meditation can reduce social anxiety. (11)
GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that is needed to balance the activity of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate.
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Meditation for Anxiety: Proven Way to Calm Your Mind
Meditation is proven to increase levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter essential to feelings of happiness and general well-being. (12)
In 2014, researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a review of 47 clinical trials on the benefits of meditation.
Anxiety reduction, they concluded, is the top benefit of meditation. (13)
There are several supplements that can alleviate symptoms of anxiety, including social anxiety.
GABA functions as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain.
Healthy GABA function is essential to relieving symptoms of a variety of mental health disorders, including anxiety, insomnia, and ADHD.
Common anti-anxiety prescription drugs like Xanax work by boosting GABA levels in the brain.
Several herbal remedies, including passionflower and valerian root extract, can be effective for increasing GABA and reducing anxiety.
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In a double-blind, randomized trial, the effects of passionflower extract were compared to oxazepam, a common pharmaceutical treatment for generalized anxiety disorder.
Passionflower and oxazepam were found to be equally effective at reducing anxiety. (14)
Valerian root tends to have more of a sedative effect than passionflower.
In a study involving 36 patients with anxiety disorder, half were given valerian and half were administered diazepam, an anti-anxiety and sedative drug.
Anxiety reduction was noted in both groups with minimal differences between them. (17)
NAC (N-acetylcysteine) is a derivative of the amino acid l-cysteine.
NAC can help the body produce glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. (18)
Several mental health disorders, including anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder, have been linked to low levels of glutathione.
Glutathione works by directly scavenging diverse destructive oxidants and toxins. (19)
Another way glutathione protects cells from oxidants is through recycling of vitamins C and E. (20)
In one animal study, N-acetylcysteine reversed oxidative damage and anxiety induced by chronic stress. (21)
A human case study involving a 17-year-old human male who had been resistant to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and the administration of multiple selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) found that 8 weeks of NAC supplementation significantly reduced anxiety symptoms. (22)
Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in adults and a common cause of increased anxiety and an overactive stress response. (23)
Magnesium is involved in a wide variety of cellular functions.
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Increased magnesium intake is helpful in treating anxiety, depression, poor digestion, muscle aches, difficulty sleeping, and stress reduction. (24)
According to the Hordaland Health Study involving over 5,700 people in Norway, lower magnesium intake was strongly correlated to higher rates of anxiety and depression. (25)
And finally, let’s look at several factors that can contribute to social anxiety that are largely under your control.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced throughout the body and brain.
Optimal serotonin levels vary between brain regions.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with social phobia often make too much serotonin in the amygdala. (26)
The amygdala is the “seat of emotion,” and functions as the fear center of the brain.
Increased production of serotonin in the amygdala can lead to increased fear and anxiety about social situations.
The most frequent cause of excess serotonin is prescription antidepressants which raise serotonin levels.
Certain supplements taken for depression can also increase serotonin.
Related articles on Be Brain Fit —
Too Much Serotonin: Causes, Symptoms, Solutions
Too Much Caffeine
People with social anxiety tend to already have an overactive stress response.
Caffeine consumption triggers the adrenal gland to produce more of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. (27)
So drinking too much caffeine can make anxiety worse. (28)
Too Much Sugar
Eating sugar causes your blood glucose level to spike.
When your blood glucose rises, so does your insulin production.
The high insulin level causes your blood glucose level to drop.
This up-and-down ride can cause your adrenal gland to produce too much of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine.
The end result is that elevated levels of cortisol and epinephrine increase the likelihood of anxiety and panic attacks. (29)
Where To Get Professional Help
To get rid of social anxiety, a little guidance can go a long way.
There are different schools of thought when it comes to social anxiety treatment.
If you aren’t sure where to turn for help, PsychologyToday.com is an excellent place to start.
Using their interactive search function, you can locate a psychologist near you that specializes in either cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy.
If you’ve already tried and failed with mainstream medical treatments, take a look at Complementary and Alternative Mental Health Resources (CAM) in our Mental Health Resources Guide.
Some CAM practitioners treat with nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, acupuncture, neurofeedback, and mind-body practices.
Others screen for toxins, food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, or neurotransmitter imbalances.
How to Get Rid of Social Anxiety: The Bottom Line
If interactions with others cause you an unusual level of distress, you may have social anxiety disorder.
Traditional treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy, but these have relatively low rates of success.
However, there are many natural remedies that can reduce or eliminate social anxiety symptoms.
Consider certain techniques like meditation and tapping, specific supplements, and improvements to key health habits as part of your natural treatment approach.
About the author
Justin Faraday is a former EMT and massive health and nutrition enthusiast. After struggling with his health for several years, he got serious about feeling incredible. Get stellar mental health and nutrition advice at his blog Dope.Fresh.Fit.