SOCIAL PHOBIA TREATED AS A PROBLEM IN SOCIAL FUNCTIONING: A TWO YEARS FOLLOW-UP
Stravynski, A., University of Montreal and Lachance, L., University of Quebec at Chicoutimi, Canada
Various psychological and pharmacological treatments for social phobia result in significant anxiety and avoidance reduction; the extent to which this leads to improvement in social functioning is not clear. This controlled study compared two approaches designed to improve the social functioning of social phobics. Hundred and twenty five patients diagnosed as socially phobic were randomly assigned to two treatments focussed on improving interpersonal relationships either with or without social skills training or a waiting list; 115 completed treatment and 107 a one year follow up. A two year telephone follow up was also conducted. Treatment was administered in small groups over 12 weekly sessions with 2 additional sessions during the first 6 months of a year-long follow up. No clinically meaningful change was observed during the waiting period (n=52). A statistically significant and equivalent improvement was observed in both treatment conditions. Both treatments resulted in reduced anxiety, avoidance, general psychopathology and better social functioning in the short term with continuing improvement in terms of remission rates. Fully 56% of the patients no longer fulfilled criteria for social phobia at the end of 1 year follow up; the remission rate (55%) remained stable at a 2 year follow up.