In General Knowledge for the Family, Physical & Mental Health

When Should You Need Social Anxiety Medication

Social Anxiety Disorder can have a massive, detrimental impact on the lives of those who suffer from it. It is a disorder that often manifests in childhood and can adversely effect everything about that child’s development, from their ability to make friends and sustain relationships, to their success in school and and extra-curricular activities. It can even have a negative impact on a child’s relationship with his or her family members. Most devastatingly, social anxiety disorder can cause a child to become a target of bullying. There are numerous ways to help a child suffering from the agony of social anxiety disorder, and one of the most common is through medication. Learn how Social Anxiety Medication can help!

Understand social anxiety medication

There are numerous forms of social anxiety medications, from sedatives to anti-depressants, and the prospect of wading through all of them, let alone understanding how they work, can be incredibly daunting. The following list will break down the most popular medications used to treat social anxiety disorders into drug classes, describe how they function, and include a brief discussion of the pros and cons of each type of medication.

What are the different kinds of social anxiety medication and how do they work?

1. Benzodiazepines

One of the more common types of medications used to treat anxiety are called benzodiazepines. These are medications that slow brain activity, and often have a slightly sedating effect. These types of medications include:

  • Xanax (alprozalom)
  • Ativan (lorezapam)
  • Klonopin (clonazepam)
  • Valium (diazepam)

These kinds of medications are very good at treating anxiety or panic attacks. These medications may be prescribed when a person has been taken to the emergency room or has been admitted to the hospital with an acute panic attack. However, benzodiazepines may increase depression, cause a loss of coordination, cause memory loss, cause physical or psychological dependency, and cause the patient to feel tired, or “out of it,” and lose their effectiveness if taken long term. Benzodiazepines may exacerbate the symptoms of dementia in elderly patients and people taking benzodiazepines should be careful driving – and should avoid alcohol while taking this medication.

2. SSRIs (Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors)

SSRIs are very commonly prescribed for depression, and they work on social anxiety disorders as well. SSRIs work by regulating the level of serotonin in the brain, which can help to elevate mood, and relieve anxiety. Some popular SSRIs include:

  • Zoloft
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Lexapro
  • Celexa

SSRIs are used as a long-term aid for those suffering from depression or social anxiety disorders. They can take up to six weeks to begin to work, so they cannot be taken on an as needed basis like the benzodiazepines. There are side effects of SSRIs including weight gain, nausea, insomnia and sexual dysfunction. It is also extremely important to remember that all anti-depressants are required by the FDA to carry a warning regarding the risk of suicide and the possibility that the drug could increase rather than relieve depression.

3. Buspar (Buspirone)

Buspar is something of a compromise between a benzodiazepine and an SSRI. Buspar works by increasing serotonin levels and decreasing dopamine levels in the brain. Like an SSRI, Buspar can take some time to start working; however, that time is drastically reduced from 4-6 weeks in the case of a drug like Zoloft, to a mere two weeks. Buspar does not cause as much sedation, forgetfulness or loss of coordination as a benzodiazepine like Xanax.

4. Occasionally, a doctor may prescribe a tricyclic antidepressant (or SNRI) like Tofranil for an anxiety or panic disorder. Other SNRIs include:

  • Amitriptyline
  • Amoxapine
  • Desipramine
  • Doxepin
  • Nortriptyline
  • Protriptyline
  • Trimipramine

Tricyclic antidepressants are an older class of antidepressants that have mainly been replaced by SSRIs. They work by blocking the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine in the brain. The side-effects of SNRI (sweating, dry-mouth, nausea, blurred vision, weight gain, and loss of sex drive) may be more severe than newer classes of medications used to treat anxiety and depression.

Are there different social anxiety medications for children than for adults?

Generally, children and adults can be prescribed the same medications for anxiety; however, it is important to be aware of the fact that many medications used to treat anxiety in adults are not appropriate for use with children or adolescents. Many doctors do not prescribe benzodiazepines for children and adolescents because they can mask any underlying problems, and cause physical and psychological dependence. Even if something like Valium is required for a very acute panic or anxiety attack, these drugs should not be prescribed over the long term for children or adults.

The same SSRIs like Zoloft and Paxil that are used to treat social anxiety in adults are often very successfully used to treat social anxiety in children and adolescents. However, children and adolescents taking SSRIs should be very closely monitored, including weekly visits to the doctor at first. Children and adolescents taking SSRIs can develop restlessness, agitation, nervousness, irritability, thoughts about self harm and/or suicidal thoughts.

Will medication used to treat ADHD also treat social anxiety in children?

No, many medications used to treat ADHD are stimulants. Stimulants will, if anything, increase anxiety rather than relieve it.

Do the benefits of social anxiety medication outweigh the possible side-effects?

This is a decision that has to be made on the individual level with the help of a psychiatrist. In the case of a child with anxiety problems, it is vital that parents and caregivers consult a child psychiatrist along with their pediatrician or general care provider. A child psychiatrist can talk parents through the diagnosis of an anxiety disorder (versus other issues that may seem to mirror anxiety), and prescribe counseling, behavioral strategies for at home, dietary and nutritional changes, as well as medication. A psychiatrist can also clearly describe what can be expected from social anxiety medication in terms of it’s benefits (it isn’t a cure, it is an aid), and its side-effects.

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