New hope for sufferers of social anxiety
30 June 2008
Young people and adults who experience social anxiety may benefit from a revolutionary new study being carried out at the University of Sydney.The study's lead researcher, Dr Adam Guastella from the University of Sydney's Brain & Mind Research Institute, said the treatment involves a combination of cognitive-behaviour therapy and d-Cycloserine (DCS), an antibiotic commonly used to treat tuberculosis. "What is so exciting about this research is that this radical new method of treatment uses DCS to help patients learn to overcome fear faster so that it is less likely to return," Dr Guastella said. "We use the medication in combination with the best psychological therapy approaches we have to create a top of the line treatment. "This trial will test how effective DCS is for the everyday mental health professional, and the likelihood that DCS will revolutionise anxiety treatments for the general community." Dr Guastella recently led the largest and most comprehensive trial of this medication to treat social anxiety in university clinics, with a team of UNSW and Macquarie researchers. Just published in Biological Psychiatry, it is the first international study to provide strong and comprehensive evidence for the benefits of DCS. "We gave 56 adults either the medication or a placebo immediately before a therapy session. Those who took DCS with psychological treatment showed greater and faster improvement in total wellbeing," he said. Dr Guastella said social anxiety typically develops between the age of 12 and 27, and his new treatment trial is aiming to target sufferers from 12 years to 65. "We are hoping to develop a more effective treatment that is likely to have the greatest impact on reducing long-term disability across the lifespan." He said research has found that social anxiety in early adulthood can contribute to long-term social isolation and other mental health problems later in life. In the early stages social anxiety often appears as shyness or a fear of being perceived negatively by others. The treatment trial will take place at the Brain & Mind Research Institute's Camperdown Campus and Campbelltown Headspace Clinics, which provide specialist mental health services. Anyone experiencing significant shyness who would like to receive this new treatment is urged to contact the Anxiety Clinic (see details below).
Until now the most effective treatment for social anxiety is cognitive-behaviour therapy, but as many as 30 per cent of patients do not respond to treatment and another 30 per cent may relapse following treatment.Social anxiety is often referred to as shyness that causes distress for individuals. It is one of the most common and under treated anxiety concerns in our Australian community with over 12 per cent of Australians likely to meet criteria. "Social anxiety is also very costly for society, accounting for as much burden of disease as does schizophrenia," he said. "This new approach of combining psychological and pharmacological methods to treatment offers a safe, cheap, more effective and longer lasting intervention that could significantly reduce treatment time and the cost to the community."
About the Brain and Mind Institute
The BMRI is a centre for discovery, innovation and integrative research strategies that translate basic science research into improved treatment and disease prevention strategies for the Australian community.
Contact: The Anxiety Clinic at BMRI
Phone: (02) 9351 0881