Cognitive therapy on its own is the best treatment for social anxiety disorder, new research finds.
It is better than just taking drugs and better than taking drugs as well as having therapy.
Cognitive therapy resulted in either a cure or significant improvement in 85% of patients.
(Dr Jeremy Dean’s ebook “The Anxiety Plan” is based on cognitive therapy.)
Professor Hans M. Nordahl, who led the study, said:
“We’ve set a new world record in effectively treating social anxiety disorders.
This is one of the best studies on social anxiety disorders ever.
It’s taken ten years to carry out and has been challenging both academically and in terms of logistics, but the result is really encouraging.”
Being anxious in some social situations is normal, but those with social anxiety disorders find it hard to live a normal life.
They may experience dizziness, flushing and other acute anxiety symptoms in social situations.
It is common for medications to be prescribed for social anxiety.
Professor Nordahl said:
“Patients often rely more on the medication and don’t place as much importance on therapy.
They think it’s the drugs that will make them healthier, and they become dependent on something external rather than learning to regulate themselves.
So the medication camouflages a very important patient discovery: that by learning effective techniques, they have the ability to handle their anxiety themselves.”
Cognitive therapy works by encouraging people to accept their feelings.
At the same time people try to focus on what they want to say and do in challenging social situations.
Professor Nordahl said:
“We’re using what’s called metacognitive therapy, meaning that we work with patients’ thoughts and their reactions and beliefs about those thoughts.
We address their rumination and worry about how they function in social situations.
Learning to regulate their attention processes and training with mental tasks are new therapeutic elements with enormous potential for this group of patients.”
The study followed over 100 people for a year.
Cognitive therapy was easily the best treatment, said Professor Nordahl:
“This is the most effective treatment ever for this patient group.
Treatment of mental illness often isn’t as effective as treating a bone fracture, but here we’ve shown that treatment of psychiatric disorders can be equally effective.”
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
The study was published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics (Nordahl et al., 2016).