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Social phobias:Treatment

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A person with the disorder may be treated with therapy, medication, or both. Research has shown cognitive behavior therapy, whether individually or in a group, to be effective in treating social phobics. The cognitive and behavioral components seek to change thinking patterns and physical reactions to anxious situations. This may be done through a technique called role playing. Prescribed medication consists of a class of antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Such treatment has a high response rate, low risk of dependancy but has been criticized for its adverse side-effects and possible increase in suicide risk.

Attention given to social anxiety disorder has significantly increased since 1999 with the approval of drugs for its treatment. Marketing campaigns by pharmaceutical companies may be largely responsible for driving this.

Arguably the most important clinical point to emerge from studies of comorbid social anxiety disorder is the necessity for early diagnosis and treatment. Social anxiety disorder remains underrecognized in primary care practice, with patients presenting for treatment only after the onset of complications such as major depression or substance use disorders. Up to 80 percent of those treated for social phobia say they've gotten their anxiety under control, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Improvement is lower for those with more severe social phobia and with comorbid disorders, such as avoidant personality disorder and depression.[1] The patients who achieve full resolution are usually far fewer; there are still many who, after receiving treatment, are unable to function in the long-term without anxiety symptoms.

Research supported by the NIMH has shown that there are two effective forms of treatment available for social phobia (and anxiety disorders): certain medications and a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the central component being gradual exposure therapy. Medications include antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as well as drugs known as high-potency benzodiazepenes.


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