Get access

A Randomized Trial of MBSR Versus Aerobic Exercise for Social Anxiety Disorder


  • We would like to thank Dr. Richard Heimberg for his helpful comments on this manuscript. This research was supported by NIMH Grant MH76074 and NCCAM Grant AT003644 awarded to James Gross. The authors of this manuscript do not have any direct or indirect conflicts of interest, financial or personal relationships or affiliations to disclose.

  • Portions of this work were presented at the November 2010 meeting of the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, San Francisco, CA.

Please address correspondence to: Hooria Jazaieri, Stanford University, Department of Psychology, 420 Jordan Hall, Room 430, Stanford, CA 94305-2130. E-mail address:



Effective treatments for social anxiety disorder (SAD) exist, but additional treatment options are needed for nonresponders as well as those who are either unable or unwilling to engage in traditional treatments. Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is one nontraditional treatment that has demonstrated efficacy in treating other mood and anxiety disorders, and preliminary data suggest its efficacy in SAD as well.


Fifty-six adults (52% female; 41% Caucasian; age mean [M] ± standard deviation [SD]: 32.8 ± 8.4) with SAD were randomized to MBSR or an active comparison condition, aerobic exercise (AE). At baseline and post-intervention, participants completed measures of clinical symptoms (Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, Social Interaction Anxiety Scale, Beck Depression Inventory-II, and Perceived Stress Scale) and subjective well-being (Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, Satisfaction with Life Scale, Self-Compassion Scale, and UCLA-8 Loneliness Scale). At 3 months post-intervention, a subset of these measures was readministered. For clinical significance analyses, 48 healthy adults (52.1% female; 56.3% Caucasian; age [M ± SD]: 33.9 ± 9.8) were recruited. MBSR and AE participants were also compared with a separate untreated group of 29 adults (44.8% female; 48.3% Caucasian; age [M ± SD]: 32.3 ± 9.4) with generalized SAD who completed assessments over a comparable time period with no intervening treatment.


A 2 (Group) x 2 (Time) repeated measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) on measures of clinical symptoms and well-being were conducted to examine pre-intervention to post-intervention and pre-intervention to 3-month follow-up. Both MBSR and AE were associated with reductions in social anxiety and depression and increases in subjective well-being, both immediately post-intervention and at 3 months post-intervention. When participants in the randomized controlled trial were compared with the untreated SAD group, participants in both interventions exhibited improvements on measures of clinical symptoms and well-being.


Nontraditional interventions such as MBSR and AE merit further exploration as alternative or complementary treatments for SAD. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J. Clin. Psychol. 68:715-731, 2012