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WCA recommendations for the long-term treatment of social phobia.

CNS Spectrums 2003 August
What is the best approach for treating patients with social phobia (social anxiety disorder) over the long term? Social phobia is the most common anxiety disorder, with reported prevalence rates of up to 18.7%. Social phobia is characterized by a marked and persistent fear of being observed or evaluated by others in social performance or interaction situations and is associated with physical, cognitive, and behavioral (ie, avoidance) symptoms. The onset of social phobia typically occurs in childhood or adolescence and the clinical course, if left untreated, is usually chronic, unremitting, and associated with significant functional impairment. Social phobia exhibits a high degree of comorbidity with other psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and substance abuse/dependence. Few people with social phobia seek professional help despite the existence of beneficial treatment approaches. The efficacy, tolerability, and safety of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), evidenced in randomized clinical trials, support these agents as first-line treatment. The benzodiazepine clonazepam and certain monoamine oxidase inhibitors (representing both reversible and nonreversible inhibitors) may also be of benefit. Treatment of social phobia may need to be continued for several months to consolidate response and achieve full remission. The SSRIs have shown benefit in long-term treatment trials, while long-term treatment data from clinical studies of clonazepam are limited but support the drug's efficacy. There is also evidence for the effectiveness of exposure-based strategies of cognitive-behavioral therapy, and controlled studies suggest that the effects of treatment are generally maintained at long-term follow-up. In light of the chronicity and disability associated with social phobia, as well as the high relapse rate after short-term therapy, it is recommended that effective treatment be continued for at least 12 months.

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