Social anxiety disorder also called social phobia is the fear or worry about being judged, ridiculed, rejected, or evaluated inappropriately in a social situation. It can also happen when one is performing.
Social anxiety shows by blushing, stammering, sweating, and fear when asked to present or talk in a group of people. People fear that they will be judged as stupid, boring, or inept.
The people with an anxiety disorder will go to any length in avoiding presenting or talking in public. The fear accompanying the anxiety can be the reason for not appearing in public.
When it is a must that you have to present, you get intense fear which is accompanied by strong symptoms including an increase in heart rate, nausea, sweating among other symptoms.
Social anxiety disorder can be treated using several treatment methods. These include fast-acting medications, other medications, psychotherapy, and home remedies.
The following are the over the counter medications for a social anxiety disorder:
- Antihistamines like diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
- Sleep medications Herbal drugs like Kava Kava, l-theanine, valerian, lavender, passionflower, lemon balm, chamomile, 5 hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP) among others
- Cough syrups and decongestants
- Pain Killers and muscle relaxants
- Vitamins and minerals like the B complex and magnesium.
These over the counter (OTC) medications are quite effective in managing social anxiety and other anxieties. The different OTC medication work as discussed below:
Antihistamines like Benadryl
The antihistamines are drugs used to manage allergies. The antihistamines block the actions of histamine which is the body substance that is the causal agent for allergic symptoms.
These drugs most at times leave the patient sedated. The sedation in most cases helps to calm and relax a person thus relieving anxiety.
Antihistamines also help you to sleep thus helping to recover from anxiety. This is because it has been proven that sleeping well helps to relieve anxiety.
Benadryl will work in like 15 to 30 minutes although the peak calming effects are realized in 2 to 4 hours. This makes Benadryl a fast-acting OTC medication for social anxiety.
The dosage in adults of Benadryl to ensure it calms the anxiety is between 25 to 50mg. The drug can be taken every 4 to 6 hours as needed for adults and children above 12 years.
Benadryl is normally used for allergies and hay fever. It is commonly indicated for runny nose, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose, and throat. It can also be used for motion sickness and as a sleeping aid.
Benadryl should not be taken if you are using other anxiety medications like benzodiazepines, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), diazepam, and pain killers.
Benadryl can cause drowsiness and thus it is important to ensure that you don’t operate machinery, drive, or take alcohol when you are taking the medication.
Muscle relaxers/ pain killers
According to recent studies, some muscle relaxers/ pain killers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be used to treat social anxiety disorder. The same mechanism of action used to alleviate pain can be used in numbing emotional pain. This pain is found in anxiety like social anxiety.
According to the studies, taking Tylenol reduces the social anxiety triggers as compared to the placebo. From the hypothesis, the brain interprets anxiety as a form of pain in the brain. This is because anxiety uses the same nerves to be transmitted.
Acetaminophen also helps to reduce psychological stress/anxiety feelings when thinking about life and death. An anxiety attack can feel like you are dying, so reducing the effects can go a long way in preventing or treating anxiety attacks.
Even though studies have shown that acetaminophen can alleviate or prevent anxiety, no formulations have been made so far for the treatment of anxiety. However, since Tylenol is available over the counter, then wherever you are experiencing anxiety you can pop in one.
Tylenol is commonly used to relieve pains like headaches, body pain among other pains. Therefore tylenol can be used as social anxiety medication available over the counter.
Sleep affects the feeling of anxiety and anxiety also affects the way you sleep. A good, restful night can help to relieve stress, anxiety and go a long way in treating depression.
There are some sleep medications that are available over the counter and that also help to relieve anxiety. Sleeping aids help to calm the nerves and give you an anxiety free time.
Some of the sleep aids available over the counter that can be used for social anxiety include:
- Antihistamines like Benadryl
- Doxylamine succinate like Unisom sleep tablets
Both Benadryl and Unisom are sedating antihistamine that can be used to treat insomnia and anxiety. Both social anxiety medications are available over the counter.
Melatonin is a hormone that naturally helps to control the sleep-wake cycle in the body. It has calming effects that help the body to transition through the sleep stages. Sleeping well helps you to be alert and prevent anxiety from developing.
Herbal remedies like Kava Kava, l-theanine, valerian, lavender, passion flower, lemon balm, chamomile, 5 hydroxy-tryptophan (5-HTP) among others can be used to treat anxiety.
The herbal medications gives the user some calming, sedating effects ensuring that you can reduce anxiety and sleep. The calming effects are mild and thus help in the long term treatment of social anxiety.
The herbal remedies are available in different forms and are sold over the counter even on Amazon.
Lavender has proven relaxing effects in the body. Lavender can either be smelled or taken with tea. Aromatherapy using lavender has been shown to relieve social anxiety immediately. According to several studies, lavender has been proven to reduce anxiety in pregnant women or even before surgery.
Lemon balm is another popular calming herbal remedy. It has been used in several anxiety situations with excellent results.
Chamomile has for several decades been used for its calming effects. It can help as a social anxiety medication that is available over the counter. It is available as chamomile tea, essential oils or take the supplements.
Valerian is another naturally occurring medication for social anxiety that is available over the counter. It has been used for years to relieve anxiety feelings. It is also very effective in inducing sleep for people with insomnia.
L-theanine, an amino acid, is a natural remedy for anxiety and sleep problems. It is found in green and black tea. The supplement should be used by starting with the lowest dose and increasing the dosage with advice from a doctor.
All these social anxiety medications (supplements) are available over the counter as sleeping aids.
Cough and cold medications
Decongestants and antihistamines are some of the commonly used drugs for treatment of cough and colds. The drugs for cough and flu that contain diphenhydramine and doxylamine can help you sleep and have the calming
The drugs are sold either in combination with pain killers or separately. Most of the decongestants contain antihistamines.
Examples of decongestants include Benadryl, Sudafed, Actifed, Afrin among others. These drugs are available as tablets, capsules or even as sprays.
Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals like vitamin D, B complex, and magnesium.
The three food components that can also be taken as supplements are good for anxiety and sleep. The foods are naturally found in various food components and when taken can have a calming effect on the body.
Vitamin D helps in mood regulation. Vitamin D deficiency has from several studies been shown to have a link with the appearance of anxiety disorders. Vitamin D can be obtained by taking supplements, foods rich in vitamin D, and also exposing the body to the sun. Salmon and Mackerel are foods rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin B complex help in managing stress and thus anxiety in the body. Several studies have tried to explore the relationship between anxiety and vitamin B complex. Vitamin B complex is available in supplements, foods like vegetables, and animal-based foods.
Magnesium helps in the proper functioning of almost all body organs. Studies have shown that anxiety improves the markers of anxiety in several people. The evidence may not be very clear but initial suggestions show there is a relationship between magnesium and anxiety. Magnesium is available in foods and supplements.
Omega-3 fatty acids is an important food component for the health of your brain. It is available in foods like flaxseed and fish. It is also available in supplements. According to several studies, omega-3 fatty acids can help in anxiety disorders like social anxiety and are available over the counter.
There are other medications that are available on prescription that is very effective in treating social anxiety. The drug used will depend on the following considerations:
- Do you want fast relief from anxiety disorders or a long term disorder medication
- Side effects of the medication
- Counteractions of the drug with other medication
- Withdrawal symptoms from taking the medication
- Type of disorder
- Symptoms of the disorder
The medications that are used for social anxiety disorder include:
- Selective Serotonin receptor inhibitors (SSRIs): This is the first-line medication for anxiety disorders. Examples of these antidepressants include fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil), and vilazodone (Viibryd).
- Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs): The antidepressant inhibits both serotonin and norepinephrine transporters. Examples are venlafaxine, desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), and duloxetine.
- Benzodiazepines: These are some of the fastest acting medications for anxiety disorders. They are also known as tranquilizers and they offer relief within 30 minutes to 1 hour. They include medications like Xanax (alprazolam), Klonopin (clonazepam), Librium (chlordiazepoxide), Valium (diazepam), and Ativan (lorazepam).
- Beta-blockers: They are also fast-acting drugs for anxiety. They are antidepressants that help the body in the regulation of the fight-or-flight mechanism by blocking the adrenaline effects on beta-blockers. They include propranolol (Inderal), acebutolol (Sectral), bisoprolol (Zebeta), carvedilol (Coreg), atenolol (Tenormin), metoprolol (Lopressor)
- Alpha-blockers: The alpha-blockers block the effects of norepinephrine (noradrenaline) in the muscles. They are majorly prescribed for BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) and high blood pressure but they also work for anxiety. They include Doxazosin (Cardura), Prazosin (Minipress), and Terazosin.
- Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA): This is a naturally occurring amino acid in the body whose primary function is being a neurotransmitter. It works in calming the body. It works within an hour.
- Anxiolytics like buspirone: It is one of the most effective medications for anxiety disorders. It is less sedating as compared to benzodiazepines. And it is able to manage most of the symptoms of anxiety.
- Anticonvulsants: These drugs for seizures are used in the management of anxiety disorders due to the side effects of benzodiazepines. They are mood stabilizers hence taking care of anxiety. They include gabapentin (Neurontin), Pregabalin (Lyrica), topiramate (Topamax), Lamotrigine (Lamictal), and valproate (Depacon).
Social anxiety can also be treated by psychotherapy and home remedies. There are non-medicinal methods that have proven to be very effective in the treatment of social anxiety and other anxiety disorders.
Psychotherapy is the talk therapy for anxiety disorders.
There are several psychotherapy techniques applicable for social anxiety disorders.
Psychotherapy may be a transdiagnostic treatment or single diagnosis treatment techniques. Single diagnosis protocols are effective in treating social anxiety. However, they may not address other underlying emotional disorders that may be contributing to social anxiety.
Transdiagnostic treatment protocols are effective in treating all emotional disorders including social anxiety disorder. The protocols target the underlying vulnerabilities that are present in most emotional disorders.
There are several home remedy techniques that can be employed in the management of social anxiety. The techniques help in coping with the symptoms or in the prevention of the appearance of anxiety attacks or panic attacks.
Some of the techniques include:
- Exercise including aerobic exercise
- Having enough quality sleep every day
- Meditation mindfulness
- Reducing the uptake of caffeine, alcohol, drugs, and nicotine
- Practicing relaxation techniques like yoga, massage, music among others
- Talking about the anxiety
- Practicing stress management techniques
The final word
Social anxiety and social phobia can make your life quite hard. It is hard when you have to talk to people and you freeze. If you have to present to a panel in the university or to the board or during an interview it would be very hard to perform in case you have social anxiety.
Social anxiety medications available over the counter can be used to treat the disorder. Those medications might not be as effective as prescription medication or psychotherapy. However, the medications can help you to manage the anxiety situation before you see a doctor.
There are also home remedies that can be applied to take care of anxiety. The techniques are applicable across several anxiety disorders. These methods when practiced can enable you to go through an anxiety attack with minimal effects or prevent the occurrence of an anxiety attack.