Talking Therapies Best for Social Anxiety Disorder

New Study: Talking Therapies are the Best Treatment for Social Anxiety Disorder

A new systematic review study published in the Lancet Psychiatry has found that talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) are the most effective way to treat social anxiety disorder. Otherwise known as social phobia, this condition is a persistent fear of social situations which affects between 7 and 10 percent of the UK population. While both talking therapies and medication have been used in the past, the new review of the existing evidence strongly suggests that talking therapies should be the front-line of treatment for the issue.

What They Did – Reviewing the Evidence on Social Anxiety Disorder Treatment

The authors used evidence from 101 clinical trials to determine which approach is the most effective for treating social anxiety disorder. Altogether, the evidence was taken from over 13,000 individuals, and looked at 17 different classes of intervention including psychological and pharmacological treatments. The main outcome the authors were looking for was an improvement in the participants’ conditions that was greater than placebo treatments or those on a waiting-list for treatment.

What They Found – CBT is the Most Effective Approach

Talking-Therapies-Best-for-social-Anxiety-DisorderWhen compared with those on the waiting list for treatment, several classes of medicine (such as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, benzodiazepines, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs], serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors [SNRIs] and anticonvulsants) were more effective, as were psychological interventions like individual or group CBT, exposure and social skills training, self help with or without support and psychodynamic therapy. However, this is effectively a comparison with no treatment, so the comparisons with appropriate placebos (“fake” treatment, such as sugar pills or dummy psychological treatment) or alternative interventions are more informative about their effectiveness.

When compared with a placebo treatment, only individual CBT, SSRIs and SNRIs produced significantly greater effects. In addition, individual CBT outperformed psychodynamic psychotherapy, mindfulness, interpersonal psychology and supportive therapy. The authors conclude that the existing evidence shows that CBT should be regarded as the best initial treatment for social anxiety disorder.

Medication as a Second Option for Social Anxiety Disorder

It makes sense that talking therapies like CBT would be the most effective for social anxiety disorder or social phobia, because the condition has a psychological root cause. For example, benzodiazepines chemically create relaxation, but don’t address the problem that caused the anxiety in the first place. According to the researchers, if the individual doesn’t want psychological treatment, the most effective pharmacological approach appears to be SSRIs, which are a common class of anti-depressants.

Conclusion – Getting Help for Social Anxiety Disorder

Cognitive behavioural therapy addresses both the thought-related (cognitive) and action-related (behavioural) aspects of social anxiety disorder. For example, somebody struggling with the problem may believe that he’ll be ridiculed if they say something that’s on his mind, and this fear in turn leads him to stay quiet. This becomes a vicious cycle, because the fact that he stays quiet means he doesn’t give himself the chance to find out that his fears were unfounded or greatly exaggerated. By addressing the unhealthy thinking pattern (that making a comment will end in ridicule) and working to gradually change behaviour (which will also help to challenge falsely-held ideas) CBT is an effective tool for addressing social phobias.

If you’d like more information about cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder, would like to book a session or discuss your needs in more detail, get in touch with us today on 020 3390 1972.