Talk Therapy Effective in Treating Social Anxiety Disorder

First Posted: Sep 26, 2014 08:27 AM EDT

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is more effective in treating social anxiety disorder, states a new study.

One of the most common mental disorders is the social anxiety disorder and is also called as social phobia. This anxiety disorder is known to affect 7-13 percent of the population. It begins in adolescence or early adulthood and can impair a person's daily function and affect performance at work/school, hamper the formation of relationships and diminish the overall quality of life.

This disorder that has lasting consequences is normally treated using antidepressants. But, the researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health found that unlike the anti-depressants, the use of cognitive behavioral therapy has lasting effects, even long after the treatment as stopped. In this study, the researchers looked at the data of 101 clinical trials and compared several types of medication and talk therapy.

"Social anxiety is more than just shyness," said study leader Evan Mayo-Wilson. "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 from our study 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."

The data of over 13,164 participants was analyzed in 101 clinical trials. All the participants had severe and long standing social anxiety. Nearly 9000 of them received medication or a placebo pill and 4000 of them received a psychological intervention. Various types of talk therapy was examined and the CBT was found to be most effective among all.

The treatment CBT mainly focused on the association between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It helps people deal with irrational fears and overcome their avoidance of social situations. Those who lack the access to talk therapy or CBT, the use of antidepressants - selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors is effective, but are however linked with serious adverse events.

"Greater investment in psychological therapies would improve quality of life, increase workplace productivity, and reduce healthcare costs," Mayo-Wilson said. "The healthcare system does not treat mental health equitably, but meeting demand isn't simply a matter of getting insurers to pay for psychological services. We need to improve infrastructure to treat mental health problems as the evidence shows they should be treated. We need more programs to train clinicians, more experienced supervisors who can work with new practitioners, more offices, and more support staff."

The study was documented in The Lancet Psychiatry.

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