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What are the Different Types of Social Phobia Treatment?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 November 2016
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A number of treatment options are available to address social phobia. Social phobias can be very debilitating for patients, causing interruptions at work, at school, and in social contexts, and people who suffer from social phobias can sometimes benefit very quickly from treatment. As with other treatable medical conditions, there is no reason to suffer from untreated social phobia; although patients may feel awkward about seeking psychological help, they should not let this be a barrier to treatment.

Social phobia treatment classically takes on a two pronged approach. The first step is to develop coping techniques which will allow the patient to be in environments which were previously intimidating, so that the patient can achieve a basic level of functionality. The next step is to identify and address the root cause of the social phobia, with the ultimate goal of social phobia treatment being a vanquishment of the phobia so that the patient is no longer afraid in social situations.

Immediate treatment for social phobia can include medications which patients can take when they anticipate a panic attack or social discomfort, as well as drugs which are designed to alter brain chemistry to reduce the intensity of phobic responses. These medications will blunt the patient's emotions during episodes of social phobia, keeping the patient more comfortable and functional. A doctor may also recommend exercises such as breathing and medication which help keep a patient focused and keep fear at bay.

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While addressing the phobia as it occurs can be valuable, the critical part of social phobia treatment is helping the patient overcome the phobia. Medications are not adequate treatment for this because they do not address the underlying cause. To treat the source of the phobia, the patient needs treatment such as psychotherapy or behavioral therapy, or both. In psychotherapy, the patient works through the issue with a qualified psychotherapist, while in behavioral social phobia treatment, the patient is gradually desensitized to the source of a phobia.

Desensitization may sound simple enough to do at home, but it requires the guidance of a professional. In guided therapy, a mental health practitioner identifies the early signs of stress in the patient during desensitization sessions, pacing the therapy so that the patient's phobia is not triggered so that the problem doesn't become worse. Behavioral therapy moves at varying paces, depending on the patient, and patients may periodically reach a plateau or a state of stasis during which social phobia treatment may not feel like it is progressing. Having the guidance of a behavioral therapist can help the patient stay on task.

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