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The fact that most people with social phobia are reluctant to seek help for their anxiety makes the need for natural and herbal remedies especially pressing. What natural remedies can help you deal with your social anxiety disorder?

Social anxiety disorder is characterized by a profound anxiety surrounding social situations, particularly those in which sufferers fear they will be judged, humiliated, or rejected. If you are suffering from social phobia, you may worry about social interactions weeks before they actually take place, and go to great lengths to avoid finding yourself in settings that increase your anxiety. Social anxiety disorder is frequently accompanied by unpleasant physical symptoms like sweating, headaches, and nausea and often has a severe disabling affect on sufferers. [1]

Since social anxiety disorder often results in a particular fear of authority figures and situations in which the sufferer is the center of attention, it comes as no surprise that many people with social phobia feel uncomfortable with talking to their primary care provider or a mental health professional about their symptoms — an estimated 80 percent of social anxiety sufferers do not seek professional help for their anxiety. [2]

Have you looked at the diagnostic criteria for social anxiety disorder and know you match them, do you have a loved one with social phobia, or have you sought medical treatment but found it insufficient? You may wonder whether natural remedies and herbs can treat anxiety disorders, including social phobia. 

Can Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Help Reduce Social Anxiety?

Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid, or GABA, is an amino acid and inhibitory neurotransmitter that reduces nervous-system excitability. Often sold in health-foods stores, it counteracts the effects of glutamate, another neurotransmitter that has the opposite effect.

Research indicates that glutamate levels are higher in people with social anxiety disorder, and that they have decreased GABA levels. [3]

People who ate GABA-infused chocolate were found to reduce anxiety levels [4], making the neurotransmitter an interesting potential self-help tool for social anxiety. Because GABA may interact with other medicines, do make sure to check with your healthcare providers before deciding to take it to reduce your anxiety if you are taking any medication. 

Does St John's Wort Work For Social Phobia?

St John's Wort is frequently used to treat mild to moderate depression, with promising effects. Research has not yet demonstrated that the herbal medication is also effective at treating social anxiety disorder, unfortunately, with study results offering conflicting results — some studies indicate that St John's Wort does not reduce anxiety symptoms in people with social phobia [5], while others show that there is weak evidence that St John's Wort could act as an anxiety medication in people with social anxiety disorder [6]. 

Kava An An Anxiety Soother

Kava is a root from the South Pacific islands that has been studied quite extensively and has been shown to be both well-tolerated by patients and effective at reducing the symptoms of non-psychotic anxiety disorders [7]. Research into kava's efficacy in treating social anxiety disorder specifically is limited, but existing literature indicates that the root, also called kava kava, might have a positive effect [8]. 

Valerian Root To Reduce Subjective Feelings Of Anxiety?

While studies have been unable to show that valerian root, another herbal remedy frequently used for both anxiety and depression, benefits people suffering from social anxiety disorder [9], there's more to the story. Research shows that people without anxiety disorders who used valerian root to get through stressful social situations experienced subjective stress relief. It is not currently clear whether this is due to the placebo effect, but as valerian root is well-tolerated, people with social phobia may wish to see whether they too experience valerian as a relaxation tool for anxiety. [10]

Other Natural Relaxation Techniques For Social Anxiety

When you think of natural treatments for anxiety, chances are herbal medications and nutritional supplements are the first things to pop into your mind. Physical activities that can reduce anxiety should absolutely be considered both natural anxiety management techniques and relaxation techniques for anxiety, however. What are your options in this realm?

Research demonstrates that both regular aerobic exercise and mindfulness-based stress reduction (mindfulness meditation) reduce the symptoms of social anxiety disorder [11]. 

Exposure therapy, a method in which people with social phobia are gradually introduced to the situations they find most stressful until the anxious reactions reduce or subside altogether, is generally used in professional settings. You can also, however, use exposure therapy techniques as a self-help tool for your social anxiety disorder by pushing yourself to engage in situations that make you anxious. Start by saying hello to coworkers, remaining in a stressful social situation for a little while, or asking a stranger for directions, for example, and increase the level of social interaction you have over time. [12]

Avoiding Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Despite the fact that social anxiety disorder can be profoundly disabling, many sufferers are reluctant to turn to therapists, psychiatrists, or their primary care providers for help — leaving them to deal with their anxiety symptoms all by themselves. We have already seen that several herbal and natural anxiety remedies indeed have the potential to reduce the symptoms of social anxiety, but nonetheless, many social phobia sufferers turn to self-medication mechanisms that are more easily available: cannabis and alcohol

Note that people with social phobia suffer from alcohol and cannabis dependence at a much greater rate than the general population [13]. Not only is it not clear whether alcohol and cannabis really do reduce anxiety symptoms, both also have great and demonstrable negative health effects including liver disease and respiratory illnesses. Is is therefore important that you are aware of the risks of weed use for social phobia and the risks of alcohol abuse. [14]

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