Aromatherapy for Social Anxiety Disorder

A List of Common Essential Oils and Their Use for Anxiety

Aromatherapy can help tame anxiety.
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Aromatherapy for anxiety involves the use of essential oils taken from plant sources such as flowers, leaves, seeds, fruits, and roots. When these oils are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, there are resulting physiological effects.

If you live with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you may consider using essential oils to help calm yourself.

How to Use Essential Oils

Essential oils must be diluted for use as they are in a concentrated form. You might choose to inhale the oils, use them on your skin, or distribute the scent in your home. 

Here are a few different ways to use oils.

  • Inhaled. For portable use, put a few drops of the oil on a tissue to keep in your pocket or on an aromatherapy bracelet or necklace.
  • In your home. While at home, you can use an oil burner or diffuser. 
  • Diluted. Essential oils could be used as part of your bath. Add about five drops of the oil of your choice to the running water to help you relax as you soak in the tub.
  • Massage. Finally, essential oils can be used as part of the massage, either on your own or by a professional. Be sure to dilute the oils first with a carrier oil (such as apricot kernel or sweet almond oil). Use about five drops of essential oil with about 10 ml of carrier oil.

Choosing Essential Oils

Your choice of essential oils will depend on your desired effects. Below are the common oils that are used and some of the suggested results of their use. 

In the following list, nervine refers to oils that strengthen the nervous systems, while sedative refers to oils that calm the nervous system.

  • Basil: nervine, for nervous tension, panic, depression
  • Bergamot: sedative, for nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia, depression
  • Cedarwood: sedative, for anxiety
  • Chamomile: sedative, nervine, for nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia, depression
  • Clary Sage: sedative, nervine, for nervous tension, panic, depression
  • Geranium: nervine, for anxiety, depression
  • Grapefruit: for depression
  • Helichrysum: sedative, for panic, depression
  • Frankincense: sedative, for anxiety
  • Jasmine: sedative, for self-esteem, depression
  • Lavender: sedative, nervine, for panic, insomnia, depression
  • Lemongrass: for depression
  • Mandarin: sedative, for anxiety, depression
  • Marjoram: sedative, nervine, for anxiety, insomnia
  • Neroli: sedative, for anxiety, panic, insomnia, self-esteem, depression
  • Orange: sedative, for nervous tension, insomnia, depression
  • Patchouli: for depression
  • Peppermint: nervine, for panic, depression
  • Petitgrain: sedative, for panic, insomnia, depression
  • Rose: sedative, for nervous tension, self-esteem, depression
  • Rosemary: for depression
  • Rosewood: for depression
  • Sage: for depression
  • Sandalwood: sedative, for nervous tension, anxiety, insomnia, depression
  • Thyme: for depression
  • Vetiver: sedative, nervine, for nervous tension, insomnia
  • Ylang Ylang: sedative, for anxiety, panic, depression

Combination Fragrances

In addition to using oils on their own, you might also consider making combination fragrances in an oil burner. Here are two examples:

For sleep:

  • 2 drops of lavender
  • 2 drops of chamomile
  • 2 drops of marjoram

For mood:

  • 2 drops of orange
  • 2 drops of bergamot
  • 2 drops of geranium

Safety and Effectiveness

It's important to note that these products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are not thoroughly tested or regulated, and there is little research evidence to support their effectiveness for social anxiety and other mental health conditions. In addition, since these products are not regulated, there is no guarantee regarding safety or ingredients.

However, there is likely little harm in trying different types of aromatherapy to see if you feel it helps your anxiety.

If you regularly use essential oils as a method to calm yourself, or pair their use with other relaxation exercises, over time it is likely that you may find simply inhaling the same scent will remind you of feeling calm.

Research on Aromatherapy

In a 2014 study published in the journal Biomedical Research International, it was shown that a four-week aromatherapy program for older persons with chronic pain was effective in reducing levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

While these results are promising, this is one small study that needs to be replicated on a larger scale. Only when there is a sufficient body of research evidence to support the effectiveness of aromatherapy, will it be possible to definitively state that this method of relieving anxiety has the backing of science.

A Word From Verywell

Above all, remember that essential oils alone are not likely to relieve severe social anxiety. If you've been struggling with symptoms, the first step should always be to visit a doctor or mental health practitioner for diagnosis and treatment. At the same time, you can experiment with aromatherapy for anxiety if you find that it offers benefits.

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