Getting Help for Social Anxiety Disorder

If you or someone you know is suffering from the symptoms of social anxiety disorder (SAD), you may not know where to go to get help. The steps for getting help for SAD are very much the same as getting help for other mental disorders.

Where to Look for Help

If you’re nervous about asking for help, consider talking to someone that you know well who has experience with mental illness, such as your family doctor. Ask their advice about where to seek treatment.

If you don’t have a family doctor, check the yellow pages under the sections “Mental Health,” “Health” and “Social Services.” A number of different kinds of professionals may offer treatment for SAD including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and mental health counselors.

If you live near a university, they may offer private or sliding-scale counseling. They may also have ongoing research projects that offer medication or psychotherapy in exchange for participating in a research study.

Finding the Right Mental Health Professional

As a person with SAD, it will probably be difficult for you on your first appointment to ask questions and make sure that you understand everything about your treatment options. Ask a friend or family member to accompany you on your initial visit to make it easier on you.

  • During the initial visit, the medical professional will probably ask you lots of questions about your symptoms. It might be helpful to write down a list of your symptoms before the visit so that you don’t leave anything out
  • Make sure that the professional has experience treating SAD and understands the disorder well. They should not minimize any of your symptoms and should be open to any questions that you have.
  • If part of your treatment will include a therapy group, make sure that it is specifically designed for social phobics. Although SAD overlaps with other anxiety disorders, people with the disorder need customized interventions that would not be found in a mixed-anxiety group.
  • If part of your treatment will include medication, make sure that you ask what type of medication you will be prescribed, why this is the best option for the type of SAD that you have, and what any side effects might be.

Social Anxiety Disorder Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide to help you ask the right questions at your next doctor's appointment.

Mind Doc Guide

It might seem overwhelming to reach out for help at first. The first step is realizing that you may have a real diagnosable illness that is out of your control, and that will only get better with proper treatment. Just as you would make your physical health a priority, it is important to make your mental health a priority as well.

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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of "Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder" and "7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety."