Study: Psychotherapy Benefits SAD Patients Who Don’t Respond to Antidepressants

Woman at therapy

Social anxiety disorder, formerly called social phobia, affects millions of people around the world. It is estimated that 15 million Americans, or 6.8% of the population do so. In the UK it is estimated to be even higher – around 10% (http://www.mentalhealthy.co.uk/anxiety/phobias/overcoming-social-anxiety.html). Those suffering from SAD experience an extreme fear of being judged or scrutinized in social and performance situations. The symptoms of this disorder severely impact one’s quality of life. Sufferers usually have difficulty building social or romantic relationships and feel alone, scared and/or powerless.

Social anxiety disorder affects men and women equally and typically begins around age 13. Despite its life-changing symptoms, an Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) study found 36% of people with SAD experienced symptoms for 10 or more years before seeking treatment.

Antidepressant medication is a common treatment offered to SAD patients. While medication may prove beneficial for some, relieving symptoms and making day to day life manageable, others fail to respond to the medication. Stuart MacFarlane, a well-known psychotherapist, is a proponent of using psychotherapy to help alleviate social anxiety. By providing a safe, supportive environment for patients to talk openly about their anxiety, they can gain a better understanding of what causes and triggers their symptoms and develop effective strategies so they can better manage them.

While psychotherapy can be beneficial on its own for patients who seek drug-free treatment, a recent study suggests it can also benefit patients whose social anxiety did not respond to drug treatment.  The study examined the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) when used with usual care (UC).

The study reported: “These results suggest that in SAD patients who have been ineffectively treated with antidepressants, CBT is an effective treatment adjunct to UC over 16 weeks in reducing social anxiety and related symptoms.”

If you suffer from social anxiety disorder, talk to your doctor about psychotherapy. Whether or not you’re seeking drug treatment, psychotherapy treatments can help you better manage your anxiety and improve your quality of life.

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