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What Medications Are Used to Treat Social Anxiety Disorder?

Medications for Social Anxiety Disorder


Updated May 29, 2014

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Several different types of medications are prescribed to treat social anxiety disorder (SAD). Each has its advantages and disadvantages depending on your particular situation.


Benzodiazepines alleviate the symptoms of anxiety by slowing down the central nervous system. Benzodiazepines may cause sedation and cognitive side effects, and have the potential to become habit-forming, and therefore are not used as the first line of treatment for SAD.

Beta Blockers

Beta blockers are usually taken prior to an anxiety-inducing event, such as a performance to alleviate symptoms of anxiety. Beta blockers are useful in situations that require mental sharpness, because they do not have adverse effects on cognitive ability as can be true for benzodiazepines.

  • Inderal (propranolol)
  • Tenormin (atenolol)

Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs)

MAOIs were once considered the most effective treatment for SAD; however these medications carry with them the risk of serious side effects if dietary and medication guidelines are not followed. Today, MAOIs are not usually used in the treatment of SAD, unless there is reason to believe that they will be more helpful than other medications (such as a family history of good results).

  • Nardil (phenelzine)
  • Parnate (tranylcypromine)
  • Marplan (isocarboxazid)

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)

SSRIs are the first line of treatment for SAD due to their tolerable side effects and ease of administration. Due to the potential for withdrawal effects, SSRIs should always be tapered when ending treatment.

Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)

SNRIs are a class of antidepressants used in the treatment of anxiety that act on the neurotransmitters serotonin and norepinephrine.

  • Effexor XR (venlafaxine)
  • Cymbalta

Other Anxiety Medications


Bezchlibnyk-Butler KZ, Jeffries, JJ, eds. Clinical Handbook of Psychotropic Drugs. Toronto, Canada: Hogrefe & Huber; 2003.

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