Brain imaging predicts psychotherapy success in patients with social anxiety disorder.
Treatment for social anxiety disorder or social phobia has entered the personalized medicine arena – brain imaging can provide neuromarkers to predict whether traditional options such as cognitive behavioral therapy will work for a particular patient.
Social anxiety disorder (SAD) – the fear of being judged by others and humiliated – is the third most prevalent psychiatric disorder in Americans, after depression and alcohol dependence, according to the National Comorbidity Survey, a U.S. poll on mental health. This fear can be so strong that it interferes with daily life activities like going to work or school. If left untreated, some sufferers use alcohol, food, or drugs to reduce the fear at social events, which often leads to other disorders such as alcoholism, eating disorders, and depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health claims that 6.8 percent of U.S. adults and 5.5 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds, the age of onset for this chronic disorder, are annually afflicted. Although psychotherapy and drugs, such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines, exist as treatments for SAD, current behavioral measures poorly predict which would work better for individual patients.