Everyone gets nervous from time to time before a stressful event, such as a presentation or a new date. Social anxiety, however, is more than just a bit of stress and nerves. It is a condition that is characterized by excessive fear, self-consciousness, worry, and emotional discomfort.
Social anxiety may become debilitating and make everyday situations incredibly stressful and difficult. Traditional treatment methods involve medication and therapy. It seems, however, that nootropics may offer natural and effective support for reducing your social anxiety symptoms.
In this article, you will learn what social anxiety is, its symptoms, its causes, and diagnosis. You will learn about diagnosis, traditional and alternative treatment strategies, and how nootropics may help. You will learn what are the best and worst nootropics for social anxiety.
What Is Social Anxiety?
Social anxiety or social anxiety disorder used to be referred to as a social phobia. It is an irrational fear of certain social situations characterized by fear, worry, or emotional discomfort. If you have social anxiety you may feel worried about being evaluated or scrutinized by others.
Social anxiety is not uncommon. About 7 percent of adults in the US experience it each year, and over 12 percent have experienced it sometimes during their lives at one point.
Social anxiety often happens in childhood as a normal part of one’s social development. However, social anxiety may last into adolescence and adulthood and may become a serious problem. The triggers, frequency, and symptoms of social anxiety may depend on the person.
While everyone gets nervous in certain situations, such as going on a date or giving an important presentation, social anxiety is more than that. It is characterized by excessive and sometimes debilitating fear, worry, embarrassment, and self-consciousness.
Social anxiety can become so serious that it may make simple tasks and situations extremely difficult or impossible. These situations may include eating in public places, filling out a form with people around, or going to a store.
If you want to learn more about social anxiety, watch this video by Kati Morton, Licensed Family Therapist. She talks about the definition of social anxiety, its symptoms, and recovery.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Social Anxiety
Social anxiety may have a variety of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms. Social anxiety and its symptoms may seriously interfere with your work, school life, social life, and other activities.
Behavioral and emotional signs and symptoms of social anxiety may include:
- Avoiding situations where the person feels they may be the focus or center of attention
- Avoiding situations and activities due to fear of embarrassment
- Fear of being in a situation with strangers
- Fear of meeting or interacting with people in authority
- Excessive fear of embarrassment, humiliation, criticism, and teasing
- Fear of being presented to others
- Anxiety or panic attacks in feared situations
- Fear of becoming anxious in certain situations
- Trouble focusing during a social situation that causes anxiety
- Feeling ‘blank’ in a social situation that causes anxiety
Physical symptoms of social anxiety may include:
- Heart palpitations
- Avoiding eye contact
- Abdominal pain
- Clammy and cold hands
- Excessive sweating
- Muscle tension
- Shaking and trembling
- Walk disturbance, imbalance, and stumbling.
- Difficulty talking
- Shaky voice
- Dry mouth and throat
- Tantrums, weeping, isolation, or clinging to parents in children
People with social anxiety may also:
- Have low self-esteem
- Have poor social skills
- Be overly sensitive to criticism
- Feel or talk negatively about themselves with self-doubting or inaccurate thoughts
- Not be assertive
- Underachieve at school or work
- Avoid attention
- Avoid group tasks
- Develop depression or other mental health issues
People with social anxiety may have difficulty in the following situations:
- Being introduced to others
- Talking to people
- Ordering a meal in a restaurant
- Starting conversations
- Using the phone, especially public phones
- Using public restrooms
- Writing in front of people
- Making eye contact
While people with social anxiety may know that their fears and anxiety are irrational and not based on real danger, their anxiety may persist. This is why it’s crucial to understand the causes of social anxiety to receive the right treatment.
Let’s see why you may experience social anxiety in the first place. Once you understand that, we can examine traditional treatment options for social anxiety and see how nootropics may help to reduce your social anxiety symptoms.
What Causes Social Anxiety
Many with social anxiety believe that it is a result of low self-esteem, a traumatic childhood, or lack of social skills. Many therapists focus on these factors through cognitive-behavior therapy.
Though trauma, self-esteem, and other factors may certainly play a role in social anxiety, there is more to the problem than that. Social anxiety may primarily be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
Social anxiety is actually a neurotransmitter problem. Your brain is controlled by multiple neurotransmitter systems. The main ones include gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and glutamate. Others are serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Neurotransmitters play an important role in anxiety, however, social anxiety is not caused by an actual deficiency of any of these. Instead, neurotransmitters affect an interrelated complex system in your brain. An imbalance may lead to social anxiety and other issues.
While prescription medications, such as SSRIs may have little success with this issue, nootropics, especially adaptogens, may help your social anxiety more effectively. Before looking into nootropics, let’s look at how neurotransmitter may affect your social anxiety.
Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA)
GABA is your main inhibitory neurotransmitter. When you are using barbiturates or benzodiazepines, it may increase GABA and provide social anxiety relief.
However, these medications do not bind to your GABA receptors. Instead barbiturates increase the duration and benzodiazepines increase the frequency of the opening of your chloride channel.
The main problem is that barbiturates and benzodiazepines may both increase your tolerance levels, lead to addictions, and may have fatal side effects. Using nootropics may be a much safer choice instead.
Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter that is basically involved in every neuronal pathway. This includes pathways that may cause or affect social anxiety.
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDA), a glutamate receptor and ion channel protein found in your nerve cells are particularly relevant to social anxiety. It may help to mediate learning and memory, hence it may help you to unlearn certain anxiety-provoking behaviors and situations.
This may be the reason that CBT may be an effective treatment for social anxiety. CBT teaches you to unlearn behaviors and learn new ones, and NMDA may help this learning process. However, nootropics, such as L-Theanine may help this process more effectively.
Serotonin is one of the most commonly known neurotransmitters that play an essential role in regulating your brain. It helps your dopamine and norepinephrine levels as well.
Serotonin has several subtypes. Serotonin-1a receptor, for example, may be both a mediator and inhibitor of serotonin depending on its location. On the other hand, serotonin-2a receptor may have psychedelic effects, for example, when using LSD, instead of anti-anxiety benefits.
While some experienced social anxiety relief when using selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) that prevent the reuptake of serotonin, these drugs have side effects. As you will learn soon, nootropics, such as Picamilon are an alternative.
Dopamine is another commonly known neurotransmitter. Its pathways may affect your social anxiety. Some medications, such as Olanzapine, for example, inhibit dopamine D2 receptors to bring about anti-anxiety benefits.
Dopamine signaling may also help to promote healthy self-esteem and self-confidence. Remember, when we mentioned that social anxiety may also be related to these factors. Healthy dopamine levels may help with that.
However, pharmaceuticals may not be necessary for social anxiety relief. Folate (vitamin B9) and L-theanine are both great nootropics that may help you greatly. You will learn both of these soon.
Norepinephrine plays a crucial role in anxiety, including social anxiety symptoms. Regulating norepinephrine levels may also lower symptoms of social anxiety.
Propranolol, a beta-blocker medication, for example, is used to lower rapid heart rate, tremors, and other symptoms of anxiety. Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are specifically designed to boost serotonin and norepinephrine to ease anxiety symptoms.
However, there may be better natural alternatives to these medications. Soon you will learn how nootropics, such as magnesium, St. John’s wort, and L-tryptophan may help social anxiety without beta-blockers and SNRIs.
While these five are the main neurotransmitters that play a crucial role in social anxiety, there are other neurotransmitters and associated systems that may also factor in. Neuropeptides, cannabinoids (CBD), and corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF) may be associated with anxiety.
However, these compounds haven’t yet translated into FDA-approved medications. As a result, CBD oil, for example, is not an FDA-approved treatment option right now, even though in low doses it may be effective for social anxiety.
Diagnosing Social Anxiety
In many cases, your primary care doctor may carry out a physical and basic psychiatric evaluation, then refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. You may visit a mental health practitioner right away as well.
In the US, to be diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder, you must meet the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) – V. However, if you don’t meet the criteria, you may still exhibit symptoms of social anxiety without a specific social anxiety disorder diagnosis.
Once you have a diagnosis, your mental health professional or healthcare team may begin treatment. Traditional treatment often involves a combination of therapy and medication.
Traditional Treatment for Social Anxiety
In the traditional medical and mental health community, social anxiety is often viewed as a lifelong condition.
The goal of treatment is usually to control symptoms and gain confidence in social situations. Psychotherapy and medications may both be considered as treatment options.
Therapy is usually an important part of social anxiety treatment, often along with medication. There may be a variety of therapy methods that may offer support.
Psychotherapy is used to help you view yourself, your life, and your problems in a more realistic like in order to help you cope better. Psychotherapy has many forms of including cognitive therapy, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, and psychodynamic therapy.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is one of the most commonly used therapies. It is aimed to help patients to recognize their negative thoughts and changed them. It helps to change distorted thinking and change behavior and reactions to anxiety triggers.
Exposure therapy is another commonly used technique for social anxiety. It exposes you to stressful and anxiety-triggering situations gradually. Cognitive delivered exposure (CDE) may help to comfort situation gradually in a safe manner with the help of a therapist.
A variety of medications may be considered for social anxiety.
Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
SSRIs are the most commonly prescribed ones. SSRIs that your doctor may prescribe may include:
- Paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR)
- Sertraline (Zoloft)
- Fluvoxamine (Luvox, Luvox CR)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem)
One of the main issues with SSRIs is that they may cause side effects such as:
- Sexual dysfunction
Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs)
SNRIs, such as venlafaxine (Effexor, Effexor XR) are another group of medications that are often prescribed. SNRIs are usually prescribed in small dose at first, then gradually increased. It may take up to 3 months to notice any changes.
Benzodiazepines are a class of medications that are used for a variety of issues, including anxiety and social anxiety. They may include alprazolam (Xanax) and clonazepam (Klonopin).
Since these medications may cause dependence and addictions, they should be used short-term only. They may also have some side-effects, including:
- Memory loss
- Loss of balance
Beta-blockers may be used for a variety of issues. Since they help to block the stimulating effects of adrenaline, they may be used for anxiety and social anxiety in some cases. Usually, they are only prescribed for specific social situations, instead of long-term treatment.
Alternative Treatment Options for Social Anxiety
There are a variety of lifestyle, dietary, and herbal treatment options that may be used for anxiety and social anxiety. They may include:
- Relaxation exercises
- Writing and journaling
- Art therapy
- Aromatherapy and essential oils
- Energy work
- Time with animals
- Herbal tea
- Herbal supplements
When it comes to alternative therapies, herbal remedies, and essential oils, there is not enough evidence or research to know their full risks and benefits. Hence, when it comes to herbs, supplements, and oils, it’s always the best to speak with your doctor before using them.
When it comes to alternative treatment, nootropics are some of the most exciting and promising options. They offer an array of cognitive benefits that may benefit social anxiety. Let’s learn what nootropics are and how they may help.
What Are Nootropics
Nootropics is an umbrella term used for chemicals that may provide cognitive benefits to the human brain. Some nootropics are natural while others are created in a lab and used for therapeutic purposes.
The commonality between all nootropics is that they may boost your brain function and cognition. They may help your brain function better even under disruptive conditions, and protect your brain with little or no side effects. Hence, they may help social anxiety.
Can Nootropics Help Social Anxiety?
Nootropics may help to increase, decrease, or stimulate brain chemicals that are responsible for your social anxiety. Hence nootropics may be a fantastic option to help you with social anxiety.
GABA is responsible for anxiety reduction. Serotonin regulated anxiety and other neurotransmitters related to anxiety, such as dopamine and norepinephrine. Dopamine promotes self-esteem and balance.
Too much or too little of these neurotransmitters in your brain may lead to an overall chemical imbalance that may cause social anxiety or other mental health issues. Creating balance and optimal levels with the help of nootropics may reduce or eliminate your social anxiety.
There is increasing research suggests that nootropics are beneficial for anxiety and social anxiety. There is even more anecdotal evidence supporting the idea. However, more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of nootropics on social anxiety.
Nootropics may benefit your mental health and improve your social anxiety. Read our list of the worst and the best nootropics out there, then consult your doctor for advice before deciding to take any nootropics for your social anxiety.
Worst Nootropics for Social Anxiety
Before you learn what may be the best nootropics for social anxiety, you should know which nootropics to stay away from. In particularly women with social anxiety should avoid these supplements since it may actually increase their social anxiety symptoms.
Caffeine may be a wonderful nootropic in some cases, however, for social anxiety, it has its limitations. Research has shown that caffeine may heighten anxiety symptoms, especially in those who are more sensitive to such symptoms, such as women.
Caffeine may also lead to withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms may mimic the symptoms of anxiety or may make you more prone to anxiety.
Racetams are synthetic nootropics that are created in a lab setting. There are four main racetams that may provide nootropic brain health benefits, including:
Though racetams may actually help to lower symptoms of anxiety, they may not be the best choice for social anxiety. Just like caffeine, they may actually increase your social anxiety symptoms.
Since racetams are not natural, but synthetic nootropics, they may not be the right choice if you are looking for natural social anxiety solutions. Thankfully, there are some fantastic natural nootropics for social anxiety. Let’s look at them one by one.
Best Nootropics for Social Anxiety
If you have social anxiety, the good news is that there are a variety of nootropics that may help to reduce your symptoms and improve your life. In this article, we have already discussed some of the top nootropics for anxiety. It’s time to look at the best nootropics for social anxiety.
PS may lower exercise-related stress, decrease anxiety in women, and increase interest in socialization in the elderly. It may also slow cortisol production and reduce the risk of anxiety-related blood pressure problems. Hence it may reduce social anxiety symptoms.
Bacopa Monnieri is an adaptogen herb with potential mood-balancing and anti-stress benefits. It may help to improve your social anxiety symptoms.
Rhodiola Rosea is another herbal adaptogen. It may help to reduce stress and reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety. It may also help soothe signs of social anxiety.
L-Theanine is one of the main amino acids found in green tea with powerful stress-reducing benefits. It may lower cortisol levels, slow down your heart rate, and balance your blood pressure under stress. Hence it may reduce symptoms of social anxiety.
L-Tyrosine is a nootropic that may help your brain when stress depletes your neurotransmitter stores. It may particularly help with low levels of norepinephrine. As a result, it may reduce social anxiety and associated symptoms.
Theacrine is an alkaloid found in a Chinese green plant. It may help with mental clarity, reduce sleepiness, and increase alertness. It may also lower social anxiety symptoms, especially confusion and trouble focusing.
Vitamins B6, B9, and B12
B vitamins are absolutely essential for your overall well-being. They are incredibly beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety. They may soothe symptoms of social anxiety as well.
Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly important in reducing inflammation in the brain and the risk of disease in your body. Low levels of Omega-3s may lead to mental health issues, including anxiety, social anxiety, and depression. Taking DHA may reduce social anxiety symptoms.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals that your body needs for healthy functioning. Low magnesium levels may lead to anxiety, brain fog, and depression. Hence adequate levels of magnesium may benefit neurological health and reduce the risk of social anxiety.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s Wort has been known and used for centuries as a natural remedy for anxiety, depression, and stress. It may help to reuptake your serotonin levels. As a result, it may benefit those with social anxiety.
Ashwagandha is a potent adaptogen that’s great for decreasing stress, reducing anxiety, lowering fatigue, restoring energy, balancing hormones, and improving concentration. It may help chronic anxiety, stress, and social anxiety.
Mucuna Pruriens is an adaptogenic herb that grows naturally in Asia and Africa. It may increase dopamine levels in your brain. It may improve your neurological function and mood and lower anxiety and social anxiety.
Cacao is a delicious nootropic everyone loves. Cacao and dark chocolate with 75% or more cacao helps to boost the anandamide or bliss molecule in your body. As a result, it helps you feel good and may reduce social anxiety too.
Gingko Biloba is a tree native to China. It has been used for thousands of years as a natural remedy for a healthy brain. It may boost your mood and reduce stress, anxiety, and social anxiety.
Lion’s Mane mushroom is a nootropic and superfood that may boost brain nerve growth factor which may increase neurogenesis. It may help with neurotropic benefits to repair brain cells, increase focus, reduce anxiety and depression, and lower social anxiety symptoms.
Panax ginseng is a wonderful nootropic often used as a tea or superfood as well. It may help to better neurological function, boost your mood, improve your memory, and lower anxiety and social anxiety.
Valerian root has been used throughout history for sleep problems, nervous system disorders, digestive issues, and other health issues. It may reduce stress and nervous tension, promote calmness, and help social anxiety.
Gotu Kola is an ancient herb used in Ayurvedic medicine. It may boost nerve growth factor and may benefit stress and anxiety. As a result, it may lower social anxiety as well.
5-HTP is a powerful nootropic that may easily cross the blood-brain barrier and converts into serotonin. As a result, it may help to improve mood, control behavior, help impulse control, balance out anxiety, reduce panic attacks, and reduce social anxiety
Phenylalanine is an amino acid that serves as a precursor to the synthesis of tyrosine in your brain. As a result, it may boost focus, increase motivation, help chronic pain, and relieve anxiety and social anxiety.
Cannabidiol, or CBD for short, is one of the over hundred chemical compounds called cannabinoids found in cannabis plants. One of the most commonly researched benefits of CBD oil is its potential for neuroprotective properties. It may benefit anxiety and social anxiety.
N-Acetyl L-Cysteine (NAC)
NAC is an N-acetyl derivative of L-cysteine. It is a naturally occurring amino acid that helps to restore glutathione in your body. It may positively impact dopamine and glutamate levels in your brain. It may help with neurotoxicity, brain inflammation, depression, anxiety, and social anxiety.
Holy Basil (Tulsi)
Holy Basil, or Tulsi is a sacred plant used in the Hindu religion. It may increase dopamine levels and reduce cortisol spikes that are induced by chronic or acute stress. It may have calming and anti-anxiety effects and may reduce symptoms of social anxiety.
Picamilon is a nootropic that is the combination of niacin (vitamin B3) and GABA. It is primarily used to boost memory, concentration, and focus. It may also have strong anti-anxiety benefits and may lower blood pressure, which may be a symptom of social anxiety.
Tryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, niacin, and melatonin. As a result, it may benefit insomnia, pain, memory loss, depression, anxiety, and social anxiety.
Kava is a native nootropic to the South Pacific. Local islanders use this plant for its sedative benefits. It may improve your mood, reduce anxiety, boost cognitive function, and lower social anxiety.
Can I Take Nootropics While Taking Other Medications for Social Anxiety?
When taking any supplement or medication, there is always a potential for interactions of side effects. In some cases, this interaction is positive, called synergy. Like other supplements, nootropics may interfere or interact with some anxiety medication or result in side effects.
If you are taking any medication, it is very important that you talk to your doctor first before taking any nootropics to avoid any negative interactions or side effects. Read labels carefully and listen to your pharmacist before starting any medication, supplement, or nootropic.
You may benefit from finding a doctor who is familiar with and supportive of nootropics. They may be able to help you find nootropics that don’t interfere with your medication and may be open to lowering your dose slowly to try nootropics instead.
Again, it is incredibly important that you don’t just stop your medication without consulting your doctor. If you and your doctor decide to lower your dose or get you off of them, it needs to be done gradually and under supervision.
If you are taking medication for any other mental or physical health condition other than social anxiety, it is still important to consult your doctor before taking any nootropics. Remember, you want to be safe and avoid side effects and interactions.
Can I Take Nootropics While Getting Therapy for Social Anxiety?
Therapy may be beneficial for anyone whether you are taking any medication, nootropics, or other supplements. You may learn more about yourself on a deeper level or learn new skills that benefit your mental health, life, and well-being, not just your social anxiety symptoms.
If you are currently doing therapy for social anxiety, it should not interfere with taking nootropics. However, let your therapist know that you are trying nootropics for social anxiety so you can navigate your treatment plan accordingly.
Can I Take Several Nootropics Together for Social Anxiety?
You may take nootropics alone or together. Standalone nootropics provide standalone effects. However, taking several nootropics together or stacking nootropics may multiply, synergize, and complement these standalone benefits for even greater cognitive enhancement.
Nootropic stacking refers to combining two or more nootropics at the same time to produce greater benefits together than they would alone. Besides stacking nootropics, you may take a variety at nootropics at different times of the day.
However, stacking nootropics or using a variety of nootropics is not always a good idea. Combining various ingredients may lead to negative interactions, intestinal absorption competition, side effects, or other unforeseen negative outcomes.
The good news is that there are some great pre-made nootropic stack supplements on the market designed for a variety of issues, including for anxiety and social anxiety. They may be safer and more effective than DIY stacks, especially if you are a nootropics newbie.
Whether you are taking nootropics alone or together as a stack, it is important that you do your research beforehand. Talk to your doctor to see if the specific nootropics are right for you. Start with a small dose, and watch your body for potential side effects before increasing your dose.
Though most people experience stress and overwhelm time to time before a date, a presentation, or other social events, social anxiety is a different ball-game. Social anxiety is a serious issue that comes with intense fear, worry, and emotional discomfort.
About 7 percent of the population experiences social anxiety each year. It can become debilitating, making everyday social situations incredibly difficult. Traditional treatment methods involve medication and therapy, however, there is always new research on the horizon.
Using nootropics for social anxiety looks promising and seems to be effective. Don’t let social anxiety interfere with living a happy and fulfilling life and robbing you from social interactions. Follow our tips, and start to regain control with the help of nootropics.
Kat Gál is a professional holistic health writer who helps health, wellness and nutrition businesses to market their products and services through quality online content. Kat is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. Reach out if you are looking for amazing blog content at katgalwriter.com. Check out nobsfreelancer.com for freelance writing tips.