In my line of work I’m constantly interacting and socializing with people; it’s almost a career requirement at this point and while I do enjoy interacting with many of my colleagues, customers, bosses and industry contacts, I suffer from pretty severe social anxiety and socializing in general puts a massive strain on my energy levels and mood. It can quickly get out of hand, if I don’t manage my social anxiety well.
And what does “managing ones social anxiety well” actually mean? This is the question I asked many months ago when I became extremely grumpy and short-fused when a colleague of mine dropped-by innocently for a chat. There was no excuse for my response to her (very innocent and well-meaning) interaction, so I had to sit down that evening and do some self-reflection, which inevitably led to a deep-dive into social anxiety; trying to understand what social anxiety is and why so many suffer from it, what the best solutions to social anxiety are (leading me to Nootropics) and finally uncovering the best nootropics to help me overcome social anxiety symptoms. Want to learn more about what I found out? Read on…
Nootropics for Social Anxiety Key Takeaways
Without revealing the whole article, here are the most interesting & useful takeways about Nootropics for Social Anxiety:
- Social anxiety is a severe stress response to situations involving groups of people, whether it be 1 person or 100. The stress response is the bodies way to respond to the perceived threat that a social situation represents, which could be humiliation, rejection, or loss of reputation.
- Nootropics are compounds or supplements that enhance cognitive performance, and are often just called smart drugs.
- The most popular nootropics for social anxiety are Uridine Monophosphate (UMP), Aniracetam, L-Theanine, Curcumin & Piperine and PerformZen.
Jordan Peterson, the (in)famous book author, clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, describes a party as a “monster” for someone who experiences social anxiety.
You might be able to relate to this idea. Perhaps you’ve had an experience when walking into a party or a gathering, and you immediately feel out of place, awkward, and/or nervous.
For me, in these situations I always feel like I’m being judged, and that I don’t 100% belong there. My insecurity and uncertainty starts to bubble.
For most people with social anxiety, these situations can be severely stressful. While under stress, our body typically reacts by releasing certain chemicals into the system and switching to the fight-or-flight mode.
When in this fight-or-flight state, sometimes called survival mode, your adrenaline hormone spikes, causing the heart to pump blood with greater force . As a result, you may experience common anxiety symptoms like dry mouth, shaking and trembling, excessive sweating, and a general feeling of dread.
The reason we even have this ‘survival mode’ stress response comes down to our genetic ancestry! Our ancestors often faced real danger in the wild, such as running into a predator animal while out hunting. They had to develop the instincts to either fight or flee in order to survive .
Although in modern society we’re no longer living under the daily threat of predators and all the dangers present in nature, for the most part, we are still hardwired to respond similarly when we perceive threats. Our natural programming has not changed that much!
If you suffer from social anxiety, then the the threat your body is responding to could be humiliation, rejection, or loss of reputation.
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Non-verbal communication is a large part of how humans interact. If you’re feeling anxious, your negative thoughts might be affecting your posture and what you non-verbally communicate to those around you .
When feeling anxious in a social situation, you may be having some of the following thoughts:
- “I’m awkward.”
- “I hate being here.”
- “What are people thinking of me?”
- “Am I looking foolish?”
- “Nobody wants to talk to me”
If you’ve experienced thoughts like these, you likely also unconsciously had a withdrawn and/or hunched over posture. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that your posture can affect your mood negatively .
This can be the beginning of a negative cycle of social anxiety! You end up feeling even more anxious, people around you sense that you’re not open to communication, and they avoid or minimize interaction with you. You take their lack of interest as further evidence that they’re unwilling to talk to you, and the cycle continues.
But how do you overcome this negative cycle and let yourself open up to others? Many consider Nootropics to be viable solutions to social anxiety, so lets follow that thread in our search for tools to help us overcome social anxiety.
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics (pronounced “noo-traah-puhks”) are compounds or supplements that enhance cognitive performance. Often colloquialized as smart drugs, the term ‘Nootropics’ derives from the Greek word “noos” (mind) and “tropein” (towards) .
There are Nootropics that reportedly enhance executive function including memory, decision-making, and creativity; all goals towards which generations and civilizations have always aspired.
Some of the most potent nootropics are amphetamines such as Ritalin and Adderall. These are stimulant drugs that increase levels of dopamine in the brain, a neurotransmitter known to regulate attention, alertness, and energy. These type of stimulant Nootropics are most effective in individuals with ADHD, and have a long history of use in professions such as piloting and surgery, where sustained attention and fast reaction times are critical .
It’s safe to say that Nootropic use is extremely common, at least in the US. One survey carried out in 2017 found that 30% of American respondents stated that they had used a drug for cognitive enhancement at least once in the preceding twelve months. Among this group, 22% had used amphetamines such as Ritalin .
There are several Nootropic drugs and supplements that are commonly used to help with social anxiety issues and symptoms. These Nootropics can help calm nerves and bring out natural charisma in people, while improving mental energy and mental sharpness at the same time. Here are several Nootropics that I personally recommend for social anxiety:
Uridine Monophosphate (UMP)
To describe what Uridine Monophosphate is, you have to understand RNA, short for Ribonucleic acid. While DNA is the tiny double helix that encodes all of your genes, RNA is its sibling molecule. Where DNA stores your genetic information, RNA translates it into proteins . RNA uses a ribonucleotide called Uridine (the nucleotide uracil bound to a ribose sugar) to translate the DNA code .
Besides its role in RNA, uridine helps the body break down sugar for energy, and it plays a big role in brain and cognitive function. In human adults, the liver creates uridine in the form of uridine monophosphate (UMP) and secretes it into the blood .
Today, UMP is commonly used as a nootropic to help fight depression symptoms, with the fantastic side-effect of likely enhancements to memory and learning .
From my understanding, the brain uses UMP to create CDP-choline, a well-known memory enhancer, and other brain “phospholipids” meaning that UMP creates the right environment for increased neuronal plasticity and synapse formation, helping the brain to adapt, learn, remember, and regrow .
As a nootropic for social interactions, UMP can help amp up verbal fluency a lot, with users reporting an ability to “speak several sentences in a row without taking a breath or stop to remember what to say” after taking a relatively low dose of 100mg (far below the 1000-2000mg per day dosage used in clinical trials) . Having this verbal fluency helps boost confidence significantly during social interactions, lowering social anxiety.
UMP is also reported to help remove some brain fog, while also improving motivation levels when taken at dosages around the 200mg range . As with any nootropic drug or medication, please consult with a healthcare professional before using, and take the opportunity to discuss dosage and any potential downsides while doing so.
If you’re looking for a Uridine Monophosphate (UMP) Supplement, then we can recommend:
A quick look at the /r/Nootropics sub-reddit will reveal that “Racetams” are some of the most commonly used nootropics. Aniracetam, in particular, is the only nootropic in the racetam family that causes potent anti-anxiety effects, and is said to increase ‘memory I/O’ (getting things in and out of your brain) . This makes Aniracetam a strong option as a nootropic to aid with social anxiety.
Discovered in the 1970s by Swiss pharmaceutical company Hoffman-LaRoche, aniracetam is available as a prescription drug in Europe but is unregulated in the US, Canada, and the UK . Piracetam, the first synthetic nootropic available to the public, came before Aniracetam which was initially developed as a more potent alternative. Aniracetam works primarily by modulating the production and release of neurotransmitters and other brain chemicals .
When socializing and networking, particularly in more professional environments where the conversation may be more subject-orientated and directional, strong memory can really be a key skill. Even in more casual situations; remembering what a person has told you, in the past or present, and then drawing on that knowledge can really add value to the conversation.
In clinical trials where Aniracetam was used for social anxiety purposes, dosages were commonly set at 1000mg-1500mg a day . This is a large dose for must adults, and 500mg to 750mg taken once or, if longer effects are needed, twice per day with food. Aniracetam is fat soluble, so taking it alongside a teaspoon or two of a healthy fat like olive oil, coconut oil or ghee (if you can stomach the taste) can really boost absorption. Again, please consult with a healthcare professional if considering taking Aniracetam.
If you’ve ever felt a sense of calmness, yet subtle alertness, after a cup of green tea then you have L-Theanine to thank for it. In a 2017 study, researchers gave low-caffeine green tea to one group of students, and a placebo to another. The green tea group experienced a significant reduction in stress levels compared to the placebo group . Another Japanese study on L-Theanine found that the trace amounts present in matcha green tea drastically reduced anxiety in mice .
L-theanine is an amino acid primarily found in tea leaves, but otherwise can be consumed in dietary form through supplements. L-Theanine has several health benefits including relaxation, cognitive focus, and better sleep .
For the purposes of social anxiety, L-Theanine can help increase your reaction times and ‘quick wits’ (improving how quickly you recognize words, for instance), boost your memory and recall, and reduce mental fatigue .
L-theanine works synergistically with caffeine, and together the two increase your reaction time (how quickly you recognize words, for instance), memory, and reduce mental fatigue — especially if you combine L-Theanine with caffeine as they have a synergistic effect . This can be a potent recipe for success when conversing with people in social situations: you can be both ‘chill’ but mentally you’re sharp, present and in-the-moment. You can either take an L-Theanine supplement (like Sports Research Double Strength L-Theanine) alongside your regular cup of coffee for this synergistic effect, or try one of the combined L-Theanine/Coffee supplements available on the market (I personally recommend Natural Stacks Smart Caffeine With L-Theanine).
Curcumin and Piperine
Curcumin is found in Turmeric, the common spice used in many Asian dishes; and Piperine is found in black pepper. Combining both Curcumin and Piperine is a good daily practice for improving mood, general anxiety levels and reducing inflammation over the long-term. The main nootropic effects of this combo are only experienced after several weeks of use, as this is when the effects of reduced inflammation, anxiety, and depression kick in. There are other extremely beneficial side-effects of curcumin and piperine for mental and bodily health, including reported cancer and pain prevention qualities.
Curcumin is a key compound in turmeric, which contains several different components known as curcuminoids. The polyphenol curcumin has several health advantages, as mentioned, due to it being a strong antioxidant and having anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties . The biggest downside to curcumin is it’s difficulty in being absorbed into the body, and that’s where Piperine comes in. Piperine, an alkaloid like capsaicin, the active component found in chili powder and cayenne pepper,increases curcumin blood absorption by (up to) 2000% .
Considering the low risk profile of both piperine and curcumin, daily dosage of 300mg curcumin (I recommend NOW Foods Curcumin) alongside 3mg piperine every morning can help improve general mood, lower anxiety, and reduce levels of inflammation over the long term . While not the most potent combination for improving social anxiety and improving your social interactions specifically, you are likely to notice a positive effect on social interactions over the long term due to the various subtle improvements in mental and bodily health markers.
PerformZen Calm Performance Formula
I couldn’t end this overview of nootropics for social anxiety without mentioning one of the best solutions out there: PerformZen Calm Performance Formula.
We actually have an excellent article all about using PerformZen to help with social anxiety, that came to the following conclusion:
Yes, PerformZen can help with social anxiety symptoms!
Our supplement, PerformZen Calm Performance Formula, is a natural supplement designed to help you stay calm under pressure – whether that’s getting up on stage to perform in front of an audience, or enter a room full of strangers at a social event and carry yourself with confidence and a calm, focused mind.
PerformZen works by boosting the neurotransmitter GABA in your brain. GABA works by inhibiting brain signals to reduce nervous system activity. Being deficient in GABA has been linked with a higher risk of anxiety .
GABA supplements are particularly helpful for those who experience social anxiety, like before performing in front of an audience, or attending a social event full of strangers.
PerformZen also contains other ingredients that boost cognitive performance so you can keep nervousness at bay and focus on your social situation:
- Magnesium – Magnesium is a natural relaxant, and helps with absorption of GABA in your body .
- Vitamin B6 – Magnesium and Vitamin B6 work together to improve mental focus and cognitive performance. B6 also promotes GABA synthesis in the body .
- Theacrine – When you’re about to enter a social situation, Theacrine will boost your energy levels, similar to caffeine but without the jittery ups and downs .
- Ginkgo Biloba – Ginkgo Biloba will keep your fight-or-flight response under control and prevents the symptoms of social anxiety .
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Even though it’s commonly called the “social lubricant” due to it’s ability to remove inhibitions and (give the sense of) eradicating social fears — alcohol isn’t necessarily an excellent tool for removing social anxiety and improving social interactions. First of all, alcohol very easily impairs cognitive functioning, making it difficult to remember your conversations clearly and easy to say something that you might regret later. And as alcohol affects the levels of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain, over the long term alcohol can actually end up increasing anxiety levels !
If you are susceptible to generalized anxiety and commonly experience more severe social anxiety, it’s actually recommended that you keep alcohol consumption minimal and try some of the other solutions listed here to help with your social anxiety. If you are worried about standing out or seeming awkward socially because you are not drinking while everyone else is, consider either purchasing a single drink and holding onto it for longer periods rather then drinking one drink after another. Or you can order soda water or a similar non-alcoholic beverage and drink from a glass, most people will not notice that you are drinking something non alcoholic.
- ^ https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response
- ^ https://uvitals.com/get-rid-of-anxiety-fast/
- ^ https://www.fastcompany.com/3041688/the-surprising-and-powerful-links-between-posture-and-mood
- ^ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/nootropics
- ^ https://supplements.selfdecode.com/blog/uridine/
- ^ https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/engineering-cognitive-experience/201912/how-use-nootropics-social-interactions
- ^ https://daveasprey.com/nootropics-for-social-anxiety/
- ^ https://www.braintropic.com/nootropics/aniracetam/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28566632
- ^ https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190709110228.htm
- ^ https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224499000448
- ^ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18006208/
- ^ https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/turmeric-and-black-pepper
- ^ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9619120/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16971751
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/
- ^ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16846100
- ^ https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1280/theacrine
- ^ https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2010105817716184
- ^ https://health.clevelandclinic.org/emotional-hangover-why-alcohol-can-give-you-anxiety