Social anxiety disorder is a psychiatric condition associated by intense fear and avoidance of social situations. It affects up to 13% of Americans and Europeans and the majority of the people never receive treatment for the disorder. However, medication is more available treatment because there is a lack of trained psychotherapists.
The findings of the study have been published online in the September 26 issue of The Lancet Psychiatry.
The people with this disorder can face serious impairment, from shunning friendships to turning down promotions at work that would need increased social interaction.
The research was a joint effort between the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Oxford University and University College London where Mayo-Wilson formerly worked.
For the study, researchers examined the data from 13,164 participants in 101 clinical trials. The participants all had severe and longstanding social anxiety. About 9,000 participants got medication or a placebo pill and over 4,000 received a psychological intervention. A few of the trials looked at combining medication with talk therapy. There was no confirmation that combined therapy was better than talk therapy given alone.
The data compared various kinds of talk therapy and researchers found individual CBT was the most effective. CBT is a form of treatment that concentrates on relationships between thoughts, feelings and behaviors. It helps out people challenge irrational fears and overcome their avoidance of social conditions.
Researchers found that people who don't want talk therapy, or who lack access to CBT, the most commonly used antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are effective. But researchers have also cautioned that medication can be connected with severe adverse events.
"Greater investment in psychological therapies would improve quality of life, increase workplace productivity, and reduce health care costs", said Evan Mayo-Wilson study leader DPhil, a research scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
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