Best Nootropics for Social Anxiety

What is social anxiety?

Do you usually feel inhibited, inadequate, embarrassed, inferior or humiliated? Do you normally have disliking for going out, meeting new people, or generally mess with your quality of life? If yes, then you are coping with social anxiety! Actually, it is a form of anxiety and a survey shows that this social anxiety affects at least 13% of people living in the U.S.[1]
Usually, social anxiety is treated by conventional medicine in two ways – Cognitive Behavior Therapy or with drugs. Those treatments may have limited success. However, don’t worry. There’s a much more effective solution: nootropics. In this article, we’ll discuss about the symptoms of social anxiety and provide you with some natural options that may be just as effective.

Causes of Social Anxiety

Poor self-esteem is one of the causes of social anxiety and it feels like it’s somehow your fault. In reality, this type of social anxiety might be a moral failure, or have been caused by a crappy childhood. However, it is primarily a chemistry imbalance in your brain. Remember, your social anxiety symptoms will banish out if the balance of neurotransmitters and their systems can be restored.

Anxiety is a Neurotransmitter Problem

Among the neurotransmitter systems, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and glutamate are the most extensive. Three other neurotransmitter systems – serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine – are also on study greatly in both normal states, and states of anxiety.[2] However, we know that each of these neurotransmitters play a role in anxiety because prescription drug therapies affect each one. The networks governed by these neurotransmitters are interrelated, have multiple reaction loops, and support complex receptor structures.[3]
Let’s look at each of these neurotransmitters and their association with social anxiety.

Serotonin

Serotonin plays an essential role in regulating your brain states including anxiety and modulates dopamine and norepinephrine as well.[4] A serotonin receptor subtype called ‘serotonin-1a receptor’ is both a mediator and inhibitor of serotonin depending on whether it is on the presynaptic or postsynaptic neuron.[5] But ‘serotonin-2a receptor’ provides the psychedelic effects not anxiolytic effects when you use LSD or mescaline.[6]
It’s true that many people get some relief from anxiety symptoms by using prescription medications that inhibit the reuptake of serotonin using SSRI’s. But, prescription medications generally come with side effects. If you look for a safe alternative, you can try nootropics like 5-HTP, Phenibut or Pikamilon and see if any of them agree with you.

GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric Acid)

GABA is the main inhibitory neurotransmitter. Increases in GABA using barbiturates or benzodiazepines can have an anxiolytic effect for some people. But both barbiturates and benzodiazepines bring tolerance and potentially fatal side effects which can kill your ability to encode memories.[7] And sometimes anticonvulsant drugs like gabapentin are used instead which can block calcium channels resulting in a boost of GABA transmission.[8]
There are racetams which display anxiolytic activity. Nootropics like Aniracetam and Oxiracetam affect the ion channels and somehow increase the excitability of those neurons and boost the effectiveness of some neurotransmitters.

Dopamine

The role of Dopamine in normal and anxiety activity in your brain is complex. Dopamine pathways may affect your social anxiety in several ways. [9] For instance, drugs like Olanzapine inhibit the dopamine D2 receptor and provide anti-anxiety affects. Dopamine signaling helps promote feelings of self-confidence and self-esteem helping reduce anxiety. For this some people with social anxiety issues respond well to drugs like Wellbutrin which help boost dopamine.[10] However, nootropics like Folate and L-Theanine help boost dopamine in your brain.

Norepinephrine

Norepinephrine also plays a complex role in anxiety states and can help reduce many social anxiety symptoms. For instance, propranolol, an antagonist of the beta2-norepinephrine receptor, is used to reduce the rapid heart rate, tremors and quivering voice that you might get when you’re about to step on stage in front of an audience.[11] Several SNRI’s (serotonin–norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors) may also be effective in quelling social anxiety symptoms.[12] Again, drugs like Cymbalta help boost serotonin and norepinephrine activity in your brain.
But there are some natural nootropic alternatives to beta-blockers that can help you instead in such situation. Nootropics like magnesium, L-tryptophan and St. John’s Wort can be used to treat social anxiety.

Glutamate

Glutamate, the primary excitatory neurotransmitter, is involved in every neuronal pathway in your brain and body, including those which affect social anxiety states.[13] Again, the NMDA receptor is also mainly important for social anxiety disorders as it helps mediate learning and memory. Activation of the NMDA receptor triggers protein synthesis and strengthens the connection between neurons.[14] Though Cognitive Behavior Therapy is sometimes effective in treating social anxiety, nootropics are safer to help you in such situation. Nootropics like Cat’s Claw, many of the racetams, L-Theanine, and Noopept all of these modulate NMDA receptors and glutamate.

Other Neurotransmitters

There are other neurotransmitters like neuropeptides, corticotrophinreleasing factor (CRF) and cannabinoids which also play a role in social anxiety. But none of the experimental compounds have translated into FDA-approved drugs. Again, cannabis in low doses is a very effective social anxiety treatment.[15] On the other hand, one of the most effective nootropics – Noopept is based off the endogenous neuropeptide cycloprolylglycine (CPG) and it was found in a research that Noopept is similar to Piracetam in not only its nootropic effect, but also anxiolytic activity.[16]

Recommendations of Nootropics for Social Anxiety

Actually, prescription drugs always come with a host of side effects. So people often go for alternative medicines to treat their problems. A study showed that nowadays more people were using alternative medicine and nootropics to treat social anxiety symptoms than for any other health problem like back problems, chronic pain, and urinary tract infections.[17]
Another meta-analysis of 42 clinical studies compared Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) with drug treatment to determine which was more effective in treating anxiety. They showed there was little difference in the positive outcomes of using CBT or pharmaceuticals.[18] If this is the outcome, then which one will you choose? We certainly choose the safer one – nootropics! And here are some nootropics you can try to treat social anxiety issues.
 

Supplements that work similarly to Beta Blockers

Here are some natural supplements with similar functionalities to prescription beta-blockers that treat anxiety.

  1. DHA (Omega-3)

    Fatty acids make up a significant portion of your brain cell membranes. Low levels of Omega-3’s are often associated with ADHD, anxiety, depression, suicide and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

  2. Magnesium

    Lack of sufficient magnesium has been known to result in brain fog, anxiety and depression. Plasticity of neuron synapses is affected by the presence of sufficient magnesium in brain cells.

  3. St. John’s wort

    St. John’s wort has been used for centuries to treat anxiety, depression and stress. It works by preventing the re-uptake of serotonin in your brain much like prescription anti-depressants.

Again, excessive levels of vitamin D can affect the way your body and brain processes calcium. Since calcium channels in your brain are implicated in anxiety related disorders, you absolutely need adequate Vitamin D levels in your body.
 

Supplements with similar functionality to SSRI’s, MAOI’s and other anti-anxiety drugs

You’ve already learned about the effectiveness of nootropic supplements in this situation. Actually, now there are many who look for an alternative to drugs to heal themselves while avoiding the costly side effects.
After doing research for different types and causes of social anxiety, we came up with this list of nootropics.

  1. Aniracetam

    A member of the racetam-family of nootropics, Aniracetam has been used in studies to treat depression and works with dopamine D2 and D3 receptors in your brain, and desensitizes AMPA (glutamate) receptors.

  2. Ashwagandha

    Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that has been used for millennia to relieve anxiety, fatigue, restore energy and boost concentration. Ashwagandha has been shown in clinical studies as a supplement to repair and even reverse damage caused in the brain caused by chronic anxiety and stress.[19][20]

  3. Bacopa Monnieri

    Bacopa is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing that has been used for millennia to relieve anxiety, fatigue, restore energy and boost concentration. It protects your neurons and balances neurotransmitters.[21]

  4. Folate

    Folate, also known as Vitamin B9, is used by your brain to make dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. Folate is involved in gene expression, amino acid synthesis, and myelin synthesis and repair. It’s even involved in cerebral circulation. Each of these factors contribute to reducing anxiety.

  5. Ginkgo Biloba

    Ginkgo has been used in China for thousands of years to boost mental alertness, improve cerebral circulation and overall brain function. According to anecdotal reports, many have found Ginkgo to be very effective in reducing anxiety, depression, stress and improving mood, energy and happiness.

  6. Ginseng

    Ginseng or Panax ginseng is often prescribed by Chinese Medicine doctors to improve mood, lower anxiety, enhance memory, increase stamina, and extend endurance.

  7. Gotu Kola

    Gotu kola is also an important herb in ancient Ayurvedic medicine. It helps enhance nerve growth factor which can have a profound effect on anxiety. According to some researchers, Gotu kola may be considered even more effective in reducing anxiety and relieving stress than Ashwagandha.[22]

  8. Kava

    Kava has been used for millenia by the islanders of South Pacific to help with relaxation, anxiety, and depression. Studies show that besides improving mood, Kava may boost cognitive function. [23]

  9. Lemon Balm

    Lemon balm is widely used for its anti-anxiety effects. Rosmarinic acid in lemon balm inhibits the GABA transaminase enzyme, which in turn helps maintain adequate levels of GABA in your brain results in a calming effect.

  10. Lion’s Mane Mushroom

    Lion’s Mane Mushroom boosts brain nerve growth factor which increases neurogenesis.[24] It can also help improve focus and attention, boost thinking, repair brain cells, and alleviate anxiety as well as depression.[25] Furthermore, those suffering from other neurological problems like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy can benefit from taking Lion’s Mane.[24][25]

  11. L-Theanine

    L-Theanine, an amino acid, naturally occurs in green and oolong tea. L-Theanine works quickly in your brain to increase dopamine and serotonin. As a nootropic, people usually use it to enhance learning, mood and focus. These neurological effects can then lower anxiety.

  12. Phenibut

    Phenibut is thought as a GABA agonist and primarily binds to the GABA-b receptor. GABA-a receptor agonists include alcohol and benzodiazepines. Phenibut was originally developed in Russia and was required for Russian astronauts to take it before embarking on a mission to help them think clearly without anxiety.  According to the research, it has also been shown to help with mood and relaxation.[26]

  13. Phenylalanine

    Phenylalanine is an amino acid that works in your brain and is a precursor to the formation of dopamine, epinephrine, melatonin and norepinephrine. A study found that Phenylalanine can improve mood, energy, and lower anxiety.[27]

  14. Pikamilon

    Pikamilon is a blend of niacin (Vitamin B3) and GABA. It has similar benefits to phenibut including it’s strong effects related to reducing anxiety.[28]

  15. Rhodiola Rosea

    Rhodiola Rosea activates AMPA receptors in your brain.[29] The activation of these receptors can be generally associated with decreasing depression and stress-related mood swings, reducing fatigue, stimulating energy and alertness, and boosting cognition.

  16. St. John’s wort

    It is a plant that has traditionally been used for mood disorders and wound healing. According to WebMD it is currently studied and used mostly as a treatment for anxiety, depression and stress.

  17. Tryptophan

    An essential amino acid, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin and niacin (Vitamin B3) in your body. Increased serotonin levels in those that are deficient can help with anxiety, ADHD, depression, insomnia, memory loss, pain and eating disorders.

  18. Vitamin B6

    Vitamin B6 helps your brain make serotonin, norepinephrine and melatonin. The activated form of Vitamin B6 is called P-5-P. P-5-P is particularly effective in boosting serotonin and GABA in your brain. These are two neurochemicals that are directly related to anxiety and depression.

  19. Vitamin B12

    Vitamin B12 plays a key role in the efficient conversion of carbohydrates to glucose –a source of fuel for your cells. It also helps your body convert fatty acids into energy. People with optimal levels of Vitamin B12 in their system have been known to have lower anxiety levels, higher alertness, cognition, energy, vision, mood and sleep better than those who do not. [30]

Get Rid Of Social Anxiety

Now you have a useful toolkit that you can use to help you battle your anxiety. Keep in mind that if you are taking any medications to be very careful when trying new supplements. You should check to see if there are any interactions and consult your physician to determine if it is safe for you to take. A lot of the anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals have adverse interactions with supplements.
If you want to ultimately get rid of social anxiety once-and-for-all, you must figure out the root cause of it. In fact there is nothing that you can eat that can possibly cure anxiety, as it is a psychological issue that comes from a lack of inner awareness into a certain issue and generally arises when the body, mind and spirit are not aligned. This is a list of nootropic supplements, which may be able to deliver an experience, a bit of mental clarity, or possibly even reduce symptoms that come from anxiety, but they certainly cannot cure anything. They say even the most professional speakers in the world still feel anxiety when they step on stage. So, curing it may not be a realistic focus anyway. Nootropics are here to give you control over your anxiety so that it stays out of the way as you move through life. To get optimal results, one must use nootropics in combination with spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation, prayer, or even therapy. In Ireland they say a good laugh with good friends can cure anything, as that may be not entirely true, it can be a good lead to help you conquer your anxiety. With that said, we hope that with this information, you are now able to live your life uninhibited and to the fullest.

Sources

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  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/ 
  20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4270108/
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