How is Aromatherapy Used for Social Anxiety Disorder?

A List of Common Essential Oils and Their Uses

Aromatherapy can help tame anxiety.
Learning about essential oils.. Getty / Hero Images

Aromatherapy 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 suffer with social anxiety disorder (SAD), you may consider using essential oils to help calm yourself. While these products are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and not regulated, they may be helpful as an adjunct to traditional treatment.

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 or use them on your skin. For portable use, put a few drops of the oil on a tissue to keep in your pocket. 

While at home, an oil burner can be used. 

  1. Place about five drops of essential oil in the top dish of water.
  2. Light the candle underneath. 

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

Essential oils could also be used as part of your bath. Add about 5 drops of oil to the running water to help you relax as you soak in the tub.

Finally, essential oils can be used as part of 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 5 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 purported results of their use. 

In general these products have not been thoroughly tested for their intended uses, and there is little scientific evidence to support their effectiveness for social anxiety and other mental health ailments.

In addition, since these products are not regulated, there is no guarantee regarding safety or ingredients.

That being said, many people use essential oils to help feel calm and reduce anxiety.

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

List of Aromatherapy Oils and their Common Applications

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

In addition to using oils on their own, you might also consider making combination fragrances.

For example, you could make the following combinations for use in an oil burner.

To help you sleep:

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

To lift depression:

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

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


University of Maryland Medical Center. Aromatherapy. Accessed August 31st, 2013.

Continue Reading