Study Uncovers Best Treatment For Social Anxiety Disorder

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For some time, the pairing of cognitive therapy and medication has been a standard treatment regimen for social anxiety disorder.

Now, a study completed by Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) researchers suggests that cognitive therapy on its own is the best longterm social anxiety solution.

About 12 percent of the general population will be affected by social anxiety disorder (SAD) during their lifetime. The SAD diagnosis is given to people who have difficulty functioning in social activities, work, and school because of heightened sensitivity to the negative judgements of others. Beside anxiety, symptoms include fear of embarrassment, or humiliation, concern about offending others, and social isolation.

Over 100 patients participated in the NTNU study which compared the most recognized SAD treatment methods. One participant group was given medication only, while a second group received therapy only. A third group was provided with therapy and medication, and the fourth received a placebo pill.

During the study, and immediately following, those in groups two and three were doing equally well. However, after a year’s time, group two participants - those who received only cognitive therapy - were doing much better than all the others.

The reason therapy alone was more effective might be owed to patients having no alternative but to rely on themselves.

“Patients often rely more on the medication and don’t place as much importance on therapy...and they become dependent on something external rather than learning to regulate themselves. So the medication camouflages a very important patient discovery: that by learning effective techniques, they have the ability to handle their anxiety themselves,” says researcher Hans M. Nordahl.

With his team, Nordahl is also working to improve the efficacy of cognitive therapy. Using a metacognitive technique, they work with patients’ thoughts, plus their reactions and beliefs about their thoughts. The tendency to ruminate, and worries about being adequate to social situations are also addressed.

“Learning to regulate their attention processes and training with mental tasks are new therapeutic elements with enormous potential for this group of patients,” said Nordahl.

Source: Science Daily
Photo credit: Sheila Sund

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