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Researchers Identify Best Way to Deal with Social Anxiety Disorders

Dec 19, 2016 04:32 AM EST

A team of doctors and psychologists from Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and University of Manchester in England has identified the most effective treatment for patients suffering from social anxiety disorder.

The study, published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, showed that structured talk therapy, or cognitive therapy, could be more effective in given as a lone treatment for social anxiety disorder, rather than being given in combination with medications.

"A lot of doctors and hospitals combine medications - like the famous "happy pill" - with talk therapy when they treat this patient group," said Hans M. Nordahl, a professor of behavioural medicine at NTNU and lead author of the study, in a press release. "It works well in patients with depressive disorders, but it actually has the opposite effect in individuals with social anxiety disorders. Not many health care professionals are aware of this."

For the study, the researchers recruited 102 participants that were referred for treatment at NTNU's University Outpatient Unit. The participants were randomly divided into four groups. The first group received the so-called happy pill paroxetine. The second group received cognitive therapy, while the third group received a combination of paroxetine and cognitive therapy. Lastly, the last group was only given a placebo pill.

The researchers observed that the participants in the second and third group were managing equally well during and after the treatments. However, the participants who only received cognitive therapy were faring the best a year after the treatments. The cognitive therapy-only group managed to increase their recovery rate from social anxiety disorder by 2 to 25 percent, with nearly 85 percent of them have significantly improved, if not completely healthy.

Social anxiety disorder has been considered as a hidden disorder that experienced by nearly 12 percent of the population during their lifetime. Due to their difficulty in social interactions, patients with social anxiety disorder may struggle in communicating their condition to their health care provider. Due to this, thousands of patients with social anxiety disorder were not given appropriate treatment and were oftentimes just being referred to drug therapy.

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