The treatment of social phobia: a critical assessment


Ariel Stravynski, Fernand Seguin Research Centre, 7331 Hochelaga St, Montreal, Quebec H1N 3V2, Canada


This article critically reviews the effects of psychological treatment (exposure, cognitive restructuring, social skills training) and pharmacological treatment (MAOIs, reversible MAOIs, anxiolytics and SSRIs) of social phobia. Only controlled studies have been included, and their outcomes were assessed for improvement in anxiety and avoidance, social functioning and clinical status. Both psychological and pharmacological treatments resulted in a significant and meaningful reduction in anxiety and, in most cases, a weakening of the tendency to avoid. Although useful, the effects were not of such a magnitude as to result in remission. Reduction in anxiety was long-lasting in patients treated by psychological methods. The lessening of anxiety did not necessarily lead to meaningfully improved social functioning. The combination of psychological and pharmacological treatments was disappointing, and did not exceed the effects of psychological treatments alone. However, the most promising medications were not tested. Subtype of social phobia and additional diagnoses did not determine the response to treatment.