Revealed: The best treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder
With 1 in 10 people suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder, it is important to fully explore successful ways of treating it.
Social anxiety disorder is more than shyness or slight unease in groups. It affects up to 13 percent of Europeans and is a psychiatric condition, characterised by intense fear and avoidance of social situations. The majority of those who suffer from the disorder do not receive treatment for it. Those who do receive treatment are most commonly prescribed anti-depressants, whilst those seeking alternative treatments to medication such as talking therapies often find a shortage of trained psychotherapists or a lack of accessible resources.
Evan Mayo-Wilson, a research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, was lead author of this research paper in collaboration with Oxford University and University College. Published in The Lancet Psychiatry, the study outlines analysis of a total of 13,164 participants, all of whom were suffering from long-term and severe social anxiety. 9,000 participants were administered a pill, either a placebo or an anti-depressant, typically a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) such as Prozac or Zoloft. The remaining 4,164 were given access to psychological therapy.
In the 101 trial studies comparing multiple types of medication and talk therapies, it was found that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was the most effective in treating Social Anxiety Disorder. The implications of such findings are obvious; this study has already led to new treatment guidelines guidance in the U.K. and the lead author states that it could have a significant impact on UK policymaking and the organization of care. This is much-needed progress, particularly due to the lack of accessible CBT services being available to those who need them in the UK.
Notably, individuals will differ in regards to success with treatment and some may decline psychological interventions, therefore, it is important to note that after CBT, SSRIs showed the most consistent evidence of benefit to participants. However, SSRIs can be associated with serious adverse effects, are not suitable for all and can evoke improvements in symptoms that cannot be sustained. Therefore, Mayo-Wilson suggests SSRIs should be used as a ‘second-line therapy’ for people who do not respond to or do not want psychological therapy.
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