There are many decades of psychotherapy and psychiatric literature on the treatment of social anxiety, but they all tend to be one of the following approaches:
Medications for social anxiety:
Most medication approaches to the treatment of social anxiety tend to focus on the treatment of acute anxiety using sedatives, or the use of modern anti-depressants which also have a positive effect on some peoples anxiety. Largely medication tends to just treat the symptoms without helping people change their behaviour or thought patterns that maintain the anxiety. The best results tend to be when medication is used alongside psychotherapy.
Therapies that focus on behaviour tend to help people target the behaviour avoidance part of Social Anxiety Disorder and help them to manage their anxiety symptoms at the same time as gradually exposing themselves to the feared situations.
These therapies tend to add approaches that help people notice and change their thinking patterns and beliefs that lead to anxiety. This is done through challenging thoughts, beliefs and ideas and over time replacing them with different thinking that is likely to lead to less anxiety. The most well known of these therapies is “CBT” or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
Mindfulness and acceptance therapies:
Therapies that focus on mindfulness and acceptance use the skills of mindfulness meditation to help people be more open and accepting of their situations and emotional experiences. Incorporated into Cognitive and behavioural therapies they are commonly referred to as the “third wave” of behavioural therapies. This includes “DBT” or Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and “ACT” or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy.
Past and trauma focussed therapies:
Given that a number of people who suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder have experienced past traumas often some people need to address these traumas to treat their social anxiety. Some theories of Social Anxiety Disorder believe the genesis of anxiety disorders lies on past experiences in childhood or early relationships with parents.
Group therapy is frequently used to treat Social Anxiety Disorder and can be very useful. They can take the form of helping people learn skills and approaches to manage their anxiety, be a talking focussed therapy group which helps people learn through practice new ways to manage anxious feelings that emerge in the group, or peer or “survivor” style self-help groups.