After nine weeks of online therapy, people experiencing social anxiety disorder show distinct changes in their brains, new research finds.
Online cognitive behavioural therapy can reduce anxiety and change brain volumes in critical areas.
The study recruited people with social anxiety disorder — one of the most common mental health problems.
Brain scans compared their brains before and after the online treatment.
Activity in the amygdala and anxiety reduced after the online cognitive behavioural therapy in comparison to a control group.
Mr Kristoffer NT Månsson, one of the study’s authors, said:
“The greater the improvement we saw in the patients, the smaller the size of their amygdalae.
The study also suggests that the reduction in volume drives the reduction in brain activity.”
The amygdala is an area of the brain vital to the processing of the emotions.
Mr Månsson said:
“Although we didn’t look at that many patients, this work provides some important knowledge — especially for all the sufferers.
Several studies have reported that certain areas of the brain differ between patients with and without anxiety disorders.
We’ve shown that the patients can improve in nine weeks — and that this leads to structural differences in their brains,”
The study was published in the journal Translational Psychiatry (Boraxbekk et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Network brain image from Shutterstock