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Treatment Options for Social Phobia in Adolescents

written by: Jacqueline Chinappi • edited by: Paul Arnold • updated: 7/12/2010

When treating social phobia in adolescents the client will have to be evaluated to consider not only treatment options, but also dual diagnosis to see if other problems are present. Treatment options can include medicated and non-medicated interventions.

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    Treating social phobias in adolescents may come in a variety of forms. These can include medicated interventions, non-medicated therapeutic interventions, or a combination of both. What exactly are we treating here? Social phobia can be diagnosed when an individual shows symptoms of anxiety in social settings. Some common symptoms may be the feeling of unease with public speaking, a feeling of embarrassment or blushing in social settings, or even the inability to make new friends. The disorder is also known as Social Anxiety Disorder.

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    Medicated Interventions

    Medical interventions for treating social phobia in adolescents will include prescriptions drugs. These prescription drugs can be antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs. (Social Phobia Treatment, 2010). Tricyclic antidepressants have shown to be effective when treating social phobia.

    Panic attacks have been reduced due to prescription of imipramine such as Tofranil and Geigy. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors better known as MAOI's such as phenelzine have also been shown to treat panic attacks in social anxiety disorders (Social Phobia Treatment, 2010). There is also evidence that simply managing the actual panic attacks associated with the phobia, the phobia will decrease and ultimately disappear.

    Anti-anxiety medications include tranquilizers which when taken allows for the patient to become less tense and more relaxed. These drugs can include:

    • Chlordiazepoxide such as Librium
    • Diazepam such as Valium
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    Therapeutic Interventions

    There have been several non-medicated therapeutic interventions that have met with success when treating social phobia in adolescents. One particularly effective therapy is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (Parkinson, 2009). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy integrates two kinds of therapy in the hope of changing maladaptive thoughts as well as maladaptive behaviors. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) aims to restructure the adolescent’s thought patterns about social situations, and help them learn how to behave appropriately and more openly in these settings.

    Some CBT techniques that have good results when treating adolescents and social phobias include:

    • Role playing
    • Social skills training
    • Support groups
    • Allowing adolescents to gradually come face to face with social setting fears and placing them in the actual social setting
    • Relaxation methods, such as breathing and meditation allowing for relaxation during tense periods
    • Replacing maladaptive and unreasonable views on social situations, and replacing them with healthier thoughts.

    Group therapy settings are also a good way of treating social anxiety disorders. Here, adolescents will come together during regularly scheduled sessions to discuss their disorder with the lead therapist and each other. Methods and techniques used during group therapy may include:

    • Role playing
    • Videotaping and observation
    • Mock interviews

    The main aims of therapy for treating social phobia in adolescents include:

    • Reducing negative thoughts about social settings and situations
    • Decrease physical symptoms of anxiety and panic attacks
    • Having the client become a more healthy and fully functioning individual in social settings

    The adolescent may have to undergo evaluation by a mental health professional to ensure no other disorders are co-occurring such as depression, or to avoid a misdiagnosis when another disorder may be the culprit such as Avoidant Personality Disorder (Widiger, 1992).

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    References:

    Parkinson, M. (2009). Review of Cognitive-behavioural therapy for social phobia in adolescents: Stand up, speak out-therapist guide. Child and Adolescent Mental Health, 14(1); 53.

    Psych Central. (2010). Social Phobia Treatment. Retrieved from, http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx35t.htm

    Widiger, T. (1992). Generalized social phobia versus avoidant personality disorder a commentary on three studies. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 101(2);340-343.