1 Recommendations

The following guidance is based on the best available evidence. The full guideline gives details of the methods and the evidence used to develop the guidance.

The wording used in the recommendations in this guideline denotes the certainty with which the recommendation is made (the strength of the recommendation). See About this guideline for details.

The recommendations relate to children and young people (from school age to 17 years) and adults (aged 18 years and older).

1.1 General principles of care in mental health and general medical settings

Improving access to services

1.1.1 Be aware that people with social anxiety disorder may:

  • not know that social anxiety disorder is a recognised condition and can be effectively treated

  • perceive their social anxiety as a personal flaw or failing

  • be vulnerable to stigma and embarrassment

  • avoid contact with and find it difficult or distressing to interact with healthcare professionals, staff and other service users

  • avoid disclosing information, asking and answering questions and making complaints

  • have difficulty concentrating when information is explained to them.

1.1.2 Primary and secondary care clinicians, managers and commissioners should consider arranging services flexibly to promote access and avoid exacerbating social anxiety disorder symptoms by offering:

  • appointments at times when the service is least crowded or busy

  • appointments before or after normal hours, or at home initially

  • self-check-in and other ways to reduce distress on arrival

  • opportunities to complete forms or paperwork before or after an appointment in a private space

  • support with concerns related to social anxiety (for example, using public transport)

  • a choice of professional if possible.

1.1.3 When a person with social anxiety disorder is first offered an appointment, in particular in specialist services, provide clear information in a letter about:

  • where to go on arrival and where they can wait (offer the use of a private waiting area or the option to wait elsewhere, for example outside the service's premises)

  • location of facilities available at the service (for example, the car park and toilets)

  • what will happen and what will not happen during assessment and treatment.

    When the person arrives for the appointment, offer to meet or alert them (for example, by text message) when their appointment is about to begin.

1.1.4 Be aware that changing healthcare professionals or services may be particularly stressful for people with social anxiety disorder. Minimise such disruptions, discuss concerns beforehand and provide detailed information about any changes, especially those that were not requested by the service user.

1.1.5 For people with social anxiety disorder using inpatient mental health or medical services, arrange meals, activities and accommodation by:

  • regularly discussing how such provisions fit into their treatment plan and their preferences

  • providing the opportunity for them to eat on their own if they find eating with others too distressing

  • providing a choice of activities they can do on their own or with others.

1.1.6 Offer to provide treatment in settings where children and young people with social anxiety disorder and their parents or carers feel most comfortable, for example, at home or in schools or community centres.

1.1.7 Consider providing childcare (for example, for siblings) to support parent and carer involvement.

1.1.8 If possible, organise appointments in a way that does not interfere with school or other peer and social activities.

Communication

1.1.9 When assessing a person with social anxiety disorder:

  • suggest that they communicate with you in the manner they find most comfortable, including writing (for example, in a letter or questionnaire)

  • offer to communicate with them by phone call, text and email

  • make sure they have opportunities to ask any questions and encourage them to do so

  • provide opportunities for them to make and change appointments by various means, including text, email or phone.

1.1.10 When communicating with children and young people and their parents or carers:

  • take into account the child or young person's developmental level, emotional maturity and cognitive capacity, including any learning disabilities, sight or hearing problems and delays in language development

  • be aware that children who are socially anxious may be reluctant to speak to an unfamiliar person, and that children with a potential diagnosis of selective mutism may be unable to speak at all during assessment or treatment; accept information from parents or carers, but ensure that the child or young person is given the opportunity to answer for themselves, through writing, drawing or speaking through a parent or carer if necessary

  • use plain language if possible and clearly explain any clinical terms

  • check that the child or young person and their parents or carers understand what is being said

  • use communication aids (such as pictures, symbols, large print, braille, different languages or sign language) if needed.

Competence

1.1.11 Healthcare, social care and educational professionals working with children and young people should be trained and skilled in:

  • negotiating and working with parents and carers, including helping parents with relationship difficulties find support

  • managing issues related to information sharing and confidentiality as these apply to children and young people

  • referring children with possible social anxiety disorder to appropriate services.

Consent and confidentiality

1.1.12 If the young person is 'Gillick competent' seek their consent before speaking to their parents or carers.

1.1.13 When working with children and young people and their parents or carers:

  • make sure that discussions take place in settings in which confidentiality, privacy and dignity are respected

  • be clear with the child or young person and their parents or carers about limits of confidentiality (that is, which health and social care professionals have access to information about their diagnosis and its treatment and in what circumstances this may be shared with others). [This recommendation is adapted from Service user experience in adult mental health (NICE clinical guidance 136)].

1.1.14 Ensure that children and young people and their parents or carers understand the purpose of any meetings and the reasons for sharing information. Respect their rights to confidentiality throughout the process and adapt the content and duration of meetings to take into account the impact of the social anxiety disorder on the child or young person's participation.

Working with parents and carers

1.1.15 If a parent or carer cannot attend meetings for assessment or treatment, ensure that written information is provided and shared with them.

1.1.16 If parents or carers are involved in the assessment or treatment of a young person with social anxiety disorder, discuss with the young person (taking into account their developmental level, emotional maturity and cognitive capacity) what form they would like this involvement to take. Such discussions should take place at intervals to take account of any changes in circumstances, including developmental level, and should not happen only once. As the involvement of parents and carers can be quite complex, staff should receive training in the skills needed to negotiate and work with parents and carers, and also in managing issues relating to information sharing and confidentiality.[This recommendation is adapted from Service user experience in adult mental health (NICE clinical guidance 136)].

1.1.17 Offer parents and carers an assessment of their own needs including:

  • personal, social and emotional support

  • support in their caring role, including emergency plans

  • advice on and help with obtaining practical support.

1.1.18 Maintain links with adult mental health services so that referrals for any mental health needs of parents or carers can be made quickly and smoothly.

1.2 Identification and assessment of adults

Identification of adults with possible social anxiety disorder

1.2.1 Ask the identification questions for anxiety disorders in line with recommendation 1.3.1.2 in Common mental health disorders (NICE clinical guideline 123), and if social anxiety disorder is suspected:

  • use the 3-item Mini-Social Phobia Inventory (Mini-SPIN) or

  • consider asking the following 2 questions:

    • Do you find yourself avoiding social situations or activities?

    • Are you fearful or embarrassed in social situations?

      If the person scores 6 or more on the Mini-SPIN, or answers yes to either of the 2 questions above, refer for or conduct a comprehensive assessment for social anxiety disorder (see recommendations 1.2.5–1.2.9).

1.2.2 If the identification questions (see recommendation 1.2.1) indicate possible social anxiety disorder, but the practitioner is not competent to perform a mental health assessment, refer the person to an appropriate healthcare professional. If this professional is not the person's GP, inform the GP of the referral.

1.2.3 If the identification questions (see recommendation 1.2.1) indicate possible social anxiety disorder, a practitioner who is competent to perform a mental health assessment should review the person's mental state and associated functional, interpersonal and social difficulties.

Assessment of adults with possible social anxiety disorder

1.2.4 If an adult with possible social anxiety disorder finds it difficult or distressing to attend an initial appointment in person, consider making the first contact by phone or internet, but aim to see the person face to face for subsequent assessments and treatment.

1.2.5 When assessing an adult with possible social anxiety disorder:

  • conduct an assessment that considers fear, avoidance, distress and functional impairment

  • be aware of comorbid disorders, including avoidant personality disorder, alcohol and substance misuse, mood disorders, other anxiety disorders, psychosis and autism.

1.2.6 Follow the recommendations in Common mental health disorders (NICE clinical guideline 123) for the structure and content of the assessment and adjust them to take into account the need to obtain a more detailed description of the social anxiety disorder (see recommendation 1.2.8 in this guideline).

1.2.7 Consider using the following to inform the assessment and support the evaluation of any intervention:

  • a diagnostic or problem identification tool as recommended in recommendation 1.3.2.3 in Common mental health disorders (NICE clinical guideline 123)

  • a validated measure for social anxiety, for example, the Social Phobia Inventory (SPIN) or the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale (LSAS).

1.2.8 Obtain a detailed description of the person's current social anxiety and associated problems and circumstances including:

  • feared and avoided social situations

  • what they are afraid might happen in social situations (for example, looking anxious, blushing, sweating, trembling or appearing boring)

  • anxiety symptoms

  • view of self

  • content of self-image

  • safety-seeking behaviours

  • focus of attention in social situations

  • anticipatory and post-event processing

  • occupational, educational, financial and social circumstances

  • medication, alcohol and recreational drug use.

1.2.9 If a person with possible social anxiety disorder does not return after an initial assessment, contact them (using their preferred method of communication) to discuss the reason for not returning. Remove any obstacles to further assessment or treatment that the person identifies.

Planning treatment for adults diagnosed with social anxiety disorder

1.2.10 After diagnosis of social anxiety disorder in an adult, identify the goals for treatment and provide information about the disorder and its treatment including:

  • the nature and course of the disorder and commonly occurring comorbidities

  • the impact on social and personal functioning

  • commonly held beliefs about the cause of the disorder

  • beliefs about what can be changed or treated

  • choice and nature of evidence-based treatments.

1.2.11 If the person also has symptoms of depression, assess their nature and extent and determine their functional link with the social anxiety disorder by asking them which existed first.

  • If the person has only experienced significant social anxiety since the start of a depressive episode, treat the depression in line with Depression (NICE clinical guideline 90).

  • If the social anxiety disorder preceded the onset of depression, ask: "if I gave you a treatment that ensured you were no longer anxious in social situations, would you still be depressed?"

    • If the person answers 'no', treat the social anxiety (unless the severity of the depression prevents this, then offer initial treatment for the depression).

    • If the person answers 'yes', consider treating both the social anxiety disorder and the depression, taking into account their preference when deciding which to treat first.

  • If the depression is treated first, treat the social anxiety disorder when improvement in the depression allows.

1.2.12 For people (including young people) with social anxiety disorder who misuse substances, be aware that alcohol or drug misuse is often an attempt to reduce anxiety in social situations and should not preclude treatment for social anxiety disorder. Assess the nature of the substance misuse to determine if it is primarily a consequence of social anxiety disorder and:

  • offer a brief intervention for hazardous alcohol or drug misuse (see Alcohol use disorders [NICE clinical guideline 115] or Drug misuse [NICE clinical guideline 51])

  • for harmful or dependent alcohol or drug misuse consider referral to a specialist alcohol or drug misuse service.

1.3 Interventions for adults with social anxiety disorder

Treatment principles

1.3.1 All interventions for adults with social anxiety disorder should be delivered by competent practitioners. Psychological interventions should be based on the relevant treatment manual(s), which should guide the structure and duration of the intervention. Practitioners should consider using competence frameworks developed from the relevant treatment manual(s) and for all interventions should:

  • receive regular, high-quality outcome-informed supervision

  • use routine sessional outcome measures (for example, the SPIN or LSAS) and ensure that the person with social anxiety is involved in reviewing the efficacy of the treatment

  • engage in monitoring and evaluation of treatment adherence and practitioner competence – for example, by using video and audio tapes, and external audit and scrutiny if appropriate.

Initial treatment options for adults with social anxiety disorder

1.3.2 Offer adults with social anxiety disorder individual cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) that has been specifically developed to treat social anxiety disorder (based on the Clark and Wells model or the Heimberg model; see recommendations 1.3.13 and 1.3.14).

1.3.3 Do not routinely offer group CBT in preference to individual CBT. Although there is evidence that group CBT is more effective than most other interventions, it is less clinically and cost effective than individual CBT.

1.3.4 For adults who decline CBT and wish to consider another psychological intervention, offer CBT-based supported self-help (see recommendation 1.3.15).

1.3.5 For adults who decline cognitive behavioural interventions and express a preference for a pharmacological intervention, discuss their reasons for declining cognitive behavioural interventions and address any concerns.

1.3.6 If the person wishes to proceed with a pharmacological intervention, offer a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) (escitalopram or sertraline). Monitor the person carefully for adverse reactions (see recommendations 1.3.17–1.3.23).

1.3.7 For adults who decline cognitive behavioural and pharmacological interventions, consider short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy that has been specifically developed to treat social anxiety disorder (see recommendation 1.3.16). Be aware of the more limited clinical effectiveness and lower cost effectiveness of this intervention compared with CBT, self-help and pharmacological interventions.

Options for adults with no or a partial response to initial treatment

1.3.8 For adults whose symptoms of social anxiety disorder have only partially responded to individual CBT after an adequate course of treatment, consider a pharmacological intervention (see recommendation 1.3.6) in combination with individual CBT.

1.3.9 For adults whose symptoms have only partially responded to an SSRI (escitalopram or sertraline) after 10 to 12 weeks of treatment, offer individual CBT in addition to the SSRI.

1.3.10 For adults whose symptoms have not responded to an SSRI (escitalopram or sertraline) or who cannot tolerate the side effects, offer an alternative SSRI (fluvoxamine[1] or paroxetine) or a serotonin noradrenaline reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) (venlafaxine), taking into account:

  • the tendency of paroxetine and venlafaxine to produce a discontinuation syndrome (which may be reduced by extended-release preparations)

  • the risk of suicide and likelihood of toxicity in overdose.

1.3.11 For adults whose symptoms have not responded to an alternative SSRI or an SNRI, offer a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (phenelzine[2] or moclobemide).

1.3.12 Discuss the option of individual CBT with adults whose symptoms have not responded to pharmacological interventions.

Delivering psychological interventions for adults

1.3.13 Individual CBT (the Clark and Wells model) for social anxiety disorder should consist of up to 14 sessions of 90 minutes' duration over approximately 4 months and include the following:

  • education about social anxiety

  • experiential exercises to demonstrate the adverse effects of self-focused attention and safety-seeking behaviours

  • video feedback to correct distorted negative self-imagery

  • systematic training in externally focused attention

  • within-session behavioural experiments to test negative beliefs with linked homework assignments

  • discrimination training or rescripting to deal with problematic memories of social trauma

  • examination and modification of core beliefs

  • modification of problematic pre- and post-event processing

  • relapse prevention.

1.3.14 Individual CBT (the Heimberg model) for social anxiety disorder should consist of 15 sessions of 60 minutes' duration, and 1 session of 90 minutes for exposure, over approximately 4 months, and include the following:

  • education about social anxiety

  • cognitive restructuring

  • graduated exposure to feared social situations, both within treatment sessions and as homework

  • examination and modification of core beliefs

  • relapse prevention.

1.3.15 Supported self-help for social anxiety disorder should consist of:

  • typically up to 9 sessions of supported use of a CBT-based self-help book over 3−4 months

  • support to use the materials, either face to face or by telephone, for a total of 3 hours over the course of the treatment.

1.3.16 Short-term psychodynamic psychotherapy for social anxiety disorder should consist of typically up to 25−30 sessions of 50 minutes' duration over 6−8 months and include the following:

  • education about social anxiety disorder

  • establishing a secure positive therapeutic alliance to modify insecure attachments

  • a focus on a core conflictual relationship theme associated with social anxiety symptoms

  • a focus on shame

  • encouraging exposure to feared social situations outside therapy sessions

  • support to establish a self-affirming inner dialogue

  • help to improve social skills.

Prescribing and monitoring pharmacological interventions in adults

1.3.17 Before prescribing a pharmacological intervention for social anxiety disorder, discuss the treatment options and any concerns the person has about taking medication. Explain fully the reasons for prescribing and provide written and verbal information on:

  • the likely benefits of different drugs

  • the different propensities of each drug for side effects, discontinuation syndromes and drug interactions

  • the risk of early activation symptoms with SSRIs and SNRIs, such as increased anxiety, agitation, jitteriness and problems sleeping

  • the gradual development, over 2 weeks or more, of the full anxiolytic effect

  • the importance of taking medication as prescribed, reporting side effects and discussing any concerns about stopping medication with the prescriber, and the need to continue treatment after remission to avoid relapse.

1.3.18 Arrange to see people aged 30 years and older who are not assessed to be at risk of suicide within 1 to 2 weeks of first prescribing SSRIs or SNRIs to:

  • discuss any possible side effects and potential interaction with symptoms of social anxiety disorder (for example, increased restlessness or agitation)

  • advise and support them to engage in graduated exposure to feared or avoided social situations.

1.3.19 After the initial meeting (see recommendation 1.3.18), arrange to see the person every 2–4 weeks during the first 3 months of treatment and every month thereafter. Continue to support them to engage in graduated exposure to feared or avoided social situations.

1.3.20 For people aged under 30 years who are offered an SSRI or SNRI:

1.3.21 Arrange to see people who are assessed to be at risk of suicide weekly until there is no indication of increased suicide risk, then every 2–4 weeks during the first 3 months of treatment and every month thereafter. Continue to support them to engage in graduated exposure to feared or avoided social situations.

1.3.22 Advise people taking a monoamine oxidase inhibitor of the dietary and pharmacological restrictions concerning the use of these drugs as set out in the British national formulary.

1.3.23 For people who develop side effects soon after starting a pharmacological intervention, provide information and consider 1 of the following strategies:

1.3.24 If the person's symptoms of social anxiety disorder have responded well to a pharmacological intervention in the first 3 months, continue it for at least a further 6 months.

1.3.25 When stopping a pharmacological intervention, reduce the dose of the drug gradually. If symptoms reappear after the dose is lowered or the drug is stopped, consider increasing the dose, reintroducing the drug or offering individual CBT.

1.4 Identification and assessment of children and young people

Identification of children and young people with possible social anxiety disorder

1.4.1 Health and social care professionals in primary care and education and community settings should be alert to possible anxiety disorders in children and young people, particularly those who avoid school, social or group activities or talking in social situations, or are irritable, excessively shy or overly reliant on parents or carers. Consider asking the child or young person about their feelings of anxiety, fear, avoidance, distress and associated behaviours (or a parent or carer) to help establish if social anxiety disorder is present, using these questions:

  • "Sometimes people get very scared when they have to do things with other people, especially people they don't know. They might worry about doing things with other people watching. They might get scared that they will do something silly or that people will make fun of them. They might not want to do these things or, if they have to do them, they might get very upset or cross."

    • "Do you/does your child get scared about doing things with other people, like talking, eating, going to parties, or other things at school or with friends?"

    • "Do you/does your child find it difficult to do things when other people are watching, like playing sport, being in plays or concerts, asking or answering questions, reading aloud, or giving talks in class?"

    • "Do you/does your child ever feel that you/your child can't do these things or try to get out of them?"

1.4.2 If the child or young person (or a parent or carer) answers 'yes' to one or more of the questions in recommendation 1.4.1 consider a comprehensive assessment for social anxiety disorder (see recommendations 1.4.5–1.4.11).

1.4.3 If the identification questions (see recommendation 1.4.1) indicate possible social anxiety disorder, but the practitioner is not competent to perform a mental health assessment, refer the child or young person to an appropriate healthcare professional. If this professional is not the child or young person's GP, inform the GP of the referral.

1.4.4 If the identification questions (see recommendation 1.4.1) indicate possible social anxiety disorder, a practitioner who is competent to perform a mental health assessment should review the child or young person's mental state and associated functional, interpersonal and social difficulties.

Assessment of children and young people with possible social anxiety disorder

1.4.5 A comprehensive assessment of a child or young person with possible social anxiety disorder should:

  • provide an opportunity for the child or young person to be interviewed alone at some point during the assessment

  • if possible involve a parent, carer or other adult known to the child or young person who can provide information about current and past behaviour

  • if necessary involve more than one professional to ensure a comprehensive assessment can be undertaken.

1.4.6 When assessing a child or young person obtain a detailed description of their current social anxiety and associated problems including:

  • feared and avoided social situations

  • what they are afraid might happen in social situations (for example, looking anxious, blushing, sweating, trembling or appearing boring)

  • anxiety symptoms

  • view of self

  • content of self-image

  • safety-seeking behaviours

  • focus of attention in social situations

  • anticipatory and post-event processing, particularly for older children

  • family circumstances and support

  • friendships and peer groups, educational and social circumstances

  • medication, alcohol and recreational drug use.

1.4.7 As part of a comprehensive assessment, assess for causal and maintaining factors for social anxiety disorder in the child or young person's home, school and social environment, in particular:

  • parenting behaviours that promote and support anxious behaviours or do not support positive behaviours

  • peer victimisation in school or other settings.

1.4.8 As part of a comprehensive assessment, assess for possible coexisting conditions such as:

  • other mental health problems (for example, other anxiety disorders and depression)

  • neurodevelopmental conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and learning disabilities

  • drug and alcohol misuse (see recommendation 1.2.12)

  • speech and language problems.

1.4.9 To aid the assessment of social anxiety disorder and other common mental health problems consider using formal instruments (both the child and parent versions if available and indicated), such as:

  • the LSAS – child version or the Social Phobia and Anxiety Inventory for Children (SPAI-C) for children, or the SPIN or the LSAS for young people

  • the Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC), the Revised Child Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS) for children and young people who may have comorbid depression or other anxiety disorders, the Spence Children's Anxiety Scale (SCAS) or the Screen for Child Anxiety Related Emotional Disorders (SCARED) for children.

1.4.10 Use formal assessment instruments to aid the diagnosis of other problems, such as:

  • a validated measure of cognitive ability for a child or young person with a suspected learning disability

  • the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire for all children and young people.

1.4.11 Assess the risks and harm faced by the child or young person and if needed develop a risk management plan for risk of self-neglect, familial abuse or neglect, exploitation by others, self-harm or harm to others.

1.4.12 Develop a profile of the child or young person to identify their needs and any further assessments that may be needed, including the extent and nature of:

  • the social anxiety disorder and any associated difficulties (for example, selective mutism)

  • any coexisting mental health problems

  • neurodevelopmental conditions such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism and learning disabilities

  • experience of bullying or social ostracism

  • friendships with peers

  • speech, language and communication skills

  • physical health problems

  • personal and social functioning to indicate any needs (personal, social, housing, educational and occupational)

  • educational and occupational goals

  • parent or carer needs, including mental health needs.

1.5 Interventions for children and young people with social anxiety disorder

Treatment principles

1.5.1 All interventions for children and young people with social anxiety disorder should be delivered by competent practitioners. Psychological interventions should be based on the relevant treatment manual(s), which should guide the structure and duration of the intervention. Practitioners should consider using competence frameworks developed from the relevant treatment manual(s) and for all interventions should:

  • receive regular high-quality supervision

  • use routine sessional outcome measures, for example:

    • the LSAS – child version or the SPAI-C, and the SPIN or LSAS for young people

    • the MASC, RCADS, SCAS or SCARED for children

  • engage in monitoring and evaluation of treatment adherence and practitioner competence – for example, by using video and audio tapes, and external audit and scrutiny if appropriate.

1.5.2 Be aware of the impact of the home, school and wider social environments on the maintenance and treatment of social anxiety disorder. Maintain a focus on the child or young person's emotional, educational and social needs and work with parents, teachers, other adults and the child or young person's peers to create an environment that supports the achievement of the agreed goals of treatment.

Treatment for children and young people with social anxiety disorder

1.5.3 Offer individual or group CBT focused on social anxiety (see recommendations 1.5.4 and 1.5.5) to children and young people with social anxiety disorder. Consider involving parents or carers to ensure the effective delivery of the intervention, particularly in young children.

Delivering psychological interventions for children and young people

1.5.4 Individual CBT should consist of the following, taking into account the child or young person's cognitive and emotional maturity:

  • 8−12 sessions of 45 minutes' duration

  • psychoeducation, exposure to feared or avoided social situations, training in social skills and opportunities to rehearse skills in social situations

  • psychoeducation and skills training for parents, particularly of young children, to promote and reinforce the child's exposure to feared or avoided social situations and development of skills.

1.5.5 Group CBT should consist of the following, taking into account the child or young person's cognitive and emotional maturity:

  • 8−12 sessions of 90 minutes' duration with groups of children or young people of the same age range

  • psychoeducation, exposure to feared or avoided social situations, training in social skills and opportunities to rehearse skills in social situations

  • psychoeducation and skills training for parents, particularly of young children, to promote and reinforce the child's exposure to feared or avoided social situations and development of skills.

1.5.6 Consider psychological interventions that were developed for adults (see section 1.3) for young people (typically aged 15 years and older) who have the cognitive and emotional capacity to undertake a treatment developed for adults.

1.6 Interventions that are not recommended to treat social anxiety disorder

1.6.1 Do not routinely offer pharmacological interventions to treat social anxiety disorder in children and young people.

1.6.2 Do not routinely offer anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines or antipsychotic medication to treat social anxiety disorder in adults.

1.6.3 Do not routinely offer mindfulness-based interventions[3] or supportive therapy to treat social anxiety disorder.

1.6.4 Do not offer St John's wort or other over-the-counter medications and preparations for anxiety to treat social anxiety disorder. Explain the potential interactions with other prescribed and over-the-counter medications and the lack of evidence to support their safe use.

1.6.5 Do not offer botulinum toxin to treat hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) in people with social anxiety disorder. This is because there is no good-quality evidence showing benefit from botulinum toxin in the treatment of social anxiety disorder and it may be harmful.

1.6.6 Do not offer endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy to treat hyperhidrosis or facial blushing in people with social anxiety disorder. This is because there is no good-quality evidence showing benefit from endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy in the treatment of social anxiety disorder and it may be harmful.

1.7 Specific phobias

Interventions that are not recommended

1.7.1 Do not routinely offer computerised CBT to treat specific phobias in adults.



[1] At the time of publication (May 2013) fluvoxamine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for use in adults with social anxiety disorder. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Good practice in prescribing and managing medicines and devices for further information.

[2] At the time of publication (May 2013) phenelzine did not have a UK marketing authorisation for use in adults with social anxiety disorder. The prescriber should follow relevant professional guidance, taking full responsibility for the decision. Informed consent should be obtained and documented. See the General Medical Council's Good practice in prescribing and managing medicines and devices for further information.

[3] This includes mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy.

  • National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)