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How Does Buspar Treat Social Phobia?

written by: Nicholas Kuvaas • edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi • updated: 10/16/2010

There are many medications and techniques for treating social anxiety disorder. However, BuSpar has benefits that other medications don't. This article discusses BuSpar and compares it to its counterparts when treating social phobia.

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    The Signs

    Social phobia may be thought of as simply being overly shy in social situations,but it is much more detrimental than that. Social phobia, which is the same as social anxiety, is an intense, persistent, and irrational fear of social situations to the point that they are avoided1. Avoiding them is thought to reduce the perceived judgment and scrutiny felt by someone who suffers from social phobia. While people who are shy can still attend social situations and function at them, people who suffer from social phobia may avoid parties and other social functions. They may also avoid eating, drinking, and writing in public; meeting new people; speaking in public; or even using public bathrooms.

    Over the years, many treatments have been used to treat social anxiety. Among them are behavioral treatments and medications. Included in these medical treatments for social phobia is Buspar. In the next sections, it will be explained how BuSpar works and how it compares to other medications for social phobia.

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    The Medicine:

    BuSpar was originally created to treat generalized anxiety disorder, and the clinical benefits quickly transcended to social phobia. Other drugs were problematic in this area because they heavily sedated those who used the drug. These drugs are known as benzodiazepines. BuSpar is in a different class of drugs known as non-benzodiazepines which affects the serotonin activity of a specific receptor in the brain. Specifically for BuSpar, this receptor is the 5HT1A receptor. By affecting this receptor, serotonin levels are regulated, and this is thought to have anti-anxiety effects. Also, side effects were limited in general, and it was thought to be as effective as benzodiazepines in relieving anxiety. However, upon entering the real world, social phobia and BuSpar did not seem to mix as well, and the drug did not quite live up to the curative expectations for social phobia. Still, it is commonly prescribed2.

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    How does it compare to other medications used for social anxiety?

    As stated earlier, the common class of drugs used to treat social phobia and anxiety disorders are benzodiazepines3. Benzodiazepines affect the activity of a neurotransmitter known as gamma-amino butyric acid (GAMA) by enhancing its activity. This leads to two separate actions which are the slowing of motor functions and the sedative effect. It is the slowing of motor neurons which decreases heart rate and palpitations. This action, in turn, leads to a calming effect and relief from anxiety. However, the sedative properties make it popular for prescription drug abuse. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be prescribed to treat social phobia, even though they are commonly used as anti-depressants. SSRIs increase the level of serotonin available leading to increased firing of the neurons, but this can also affect the stomach leading to unpleasant side effects. For these reasons, BuSpar was developed, but it's the patient's decision on which prescription they would like to take for social phobia. In some cases, medication may not be necessary if the behavioral techniques and therapy are effective in reducing the social phobia.

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    References

    1. https://health.google.com/health/ref/Social+phobia

    2. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/AnxietyTreating/story?id=4660154

    3. http://www.cesar.umd.edu/cesar/drugs/benzos.asp