Talk therapy best to treat social anxiety disorder

For treating social anxiety disorder, the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is more effective and can have lasting effects long after treatment has stopped, research suggests.

IANS| Updated: Sep 26, 2014, 13:02 PM IST

New York: For treating social anxiety disorder, the cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is more effective and can have lasting effects long after treatment has stopped, research suggests.

People with this disorder can experience severe impairment, from shunning friendships to turning down promotions at work that would require increased social interaction.

“The good news is that social anxiety is treatable. Now that we know what works best, we need to improve access to psychotherapy for those who are suffering,” sayd Evan Mayo-Wilson, a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Social anxiety disorder is a psychiatric condition characterised by intense fear and avoidance of social situations.

For the study, Mayo-Wilson and his colleagues analysed data from 13,164 participants in 101 clinical trials suffering from severe and longstanding social anxiety.

Approximately 9,000 people received medication or a placebo pill, and more than 4,000 received a psychological intervention.

The data compared several different types of talk therapy and found individual CBT was the most effective.

“CBT is a form of treatment that focuses on relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviours. It helps people challenge irrational fears and overcome their avoidance of social situations,” Mayo-Wilson explained.

For people who do not want talk therapy or who lack access to CBT, the most commonly used antidepressants - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) - are effective, the researchers found.

They, however, caution that medication can be associated with serious adverse events, that it does not work at all for many people and that improvements in symptoms do not last after people stop taking the pills.

The findings of the study were published online in The Lancet Psychiatry.