Optimal treatment of social phobia: systematic review and meta-analysis
John Canton, Kate M Scott, Paul Glue
Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
Abstract: This article proposes a number of recommendations for the treatment of generalized social phobia, based on a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. An optimal treatment regimen would include a combination of medication and psychotherapy, along with an assertive clinical management program. For medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and dual serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors are first-line choices based on their efficacy and tolerability profiles. The nonselective monoamine oxidase inhibitor, phenelzine, may be more potent than these two drug classes, but because of its food and drug interaction liabilities, its use should be restricted to patients not responding to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. There are other medication classes with demonstrated efficacy in social phobia (benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, alpha-2-delta ligands), but due to limited published clinical trial data and the potential for dependence and withdrawal issues with benzodiazepines, it is unclear how best to incorporate these drugs into treatment regimens. There are very few clinical trials on the use of combined medications. Cognitive behavior therapy appears to be more effective than other evidence-based psychological techniques, and its effects appear to be more enduring than those of pharmacotherapy. There is some evidence, albeit limited to certain drug classes, that the combination of medication and cognitive behavior therapy may be more effective than either strategy used alone. Generalized social phobia is a chronic disorder, and many patients will require long-term support and treatment.
Keywords: social phobia, social anxiety disorder, psychotherapy, cognitive behavior therapy, antidepressant
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