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How to treat the symptoms of social anxiety disorder

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Social Anxiety Disorder can make it really hard to function at school, work or in social situations. Fortunately, this condition can be treated with the help of a mental health professional.

One highly effective treatment for social anxiety disorder is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). You and your therapist work together to identify and change thoughts and behaviors that feed your anxiety. For instance, you’ll work on counteracting thoughts like “Everyone is judging me” and “I’m going to do a terrible job with this speech.” There are also medications that, when used in conjunction with therapy, can help reduce anxiety.

In addition to following your treatment plan, there are other ways you can reduce your anxiety.

Avoid caffeine. Caffeine fuels anxiety, and heightens symptoms such as agitation, irritability, nervousness, jitteriness, headaches and dizziness. So it’s better to either cut down on your intake or, better yet, avoid caffeine altogether.
Manage stress. Stress can also exacerbate anxiety. One big source of stress is schoolwork. If you have a speech or presentation coming up, manage your stress by starting early and breaking up the project into smaller parts. Practice the presentation several times until you feel comfortable with it. Try to practice in front of a close friend, too.
Learn relaxation techniques. Sometimes no matter what you do, you’re unable to prevent the physical symptoms of anxiety. Learning ways to relax can be tremendously helpful in stopping anxiety from escalating.
Practice anxiety-provoking situations. The more you practice something, the more comfortable and better skilled you become. Avoiding situations that bring you anxiety makes you feel better at first, but over time, this increases your anxiety, and you think that you can’t handle these situations. Start practicing activities that make you somewhat uncomfortable and work your way up. Some ideas: Talk to a classmate about an assignment, answer a question in class, attend a tutoring session, eat in the cafeteria, have lunch with a friend or compliment a stranger.