Childhood maltreatment and social anxiety disorder: implications for symptom severity and response to pharmacotherapy

Laura C Bruce, Richard G Heimberg, Carlos Blanco, Franklin R Schneier, Michael R Liebowitz
Depression and Anxiety 2012, 29 (2): 131-8

BACKGROUND: Childhood maltreatment has been associated with symptom severity, reduced quality of life, and impaired functioning in adults with social anxiety disorder (SAD). No study has investigated how childhood maltreatment impacts pharmacotherapy outcomes in this population, despite evidence for such a link in depression. The current study replicates previous work on childhood maltreatment within SAD and examines its impact on response to pharmacotherapy.

METHODS: One hundred and fifty six individuals seeking treatment for SAD completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire, which measures various types of abuse and neglect, along with the measures of symptom severity, quality of life, and disability. Data from a subset of patients enrolled in a paroxetine trial (N = 127) were analyzed to gauge the impact of childhood maltreatment on attrition and treatment response.

RESULTS: All types of maltreatment except for sexual abuse and physical abuse were related to greater symptom severity. Emotional abuse and neglect were related to greater disability, and emotional abuse, emotional neglect, and physical abuse were related to decreased quality of life. Emotional abuse significantly predicted attrition. A time by emotional abuse interaction suggests that for those who stayed the course, the impact of emotional abuse on severity of social anxiety weakened significantly over time.

CONCLUSIONS: Emotional maltreatment was most strongly linked to dysfunction in SAD, despite a tendency in the anxiety literature to focus on the effects of sexual and physical abuse. Additionally, individuals reporting emotional abuse were more likely to dropout from pharmacotherapy, but those who stayed the course displayed similar outcomes to those without such a history.


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