Cognitive behavioural therapy success scanning
A recent study has provided evidence that an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scan can determine whether or not cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) will be effective for the treatment of individuals’ social anxiety. This finding could mean that the most beneficial treatment for individuals suffering from the condition could be identified before any specific approach is attempted. In some cases, medication such as beta-blockers or benzodiazepines are offered to help those suffering from social anxiety disorder, but the new research means that the effectiveness of therapy could be determined beforehand.
Social anxiety disorder is different from the everyday anxiety that many people struggle with in social situations. It is a more crippling condition, where the anxiety is usually so great that people will actively avoid situations that trigger it. Whilst most people may be somewhat nervous when faced with introducing themselves to a new group of individuals, those with social anxiety disorder may not even attend an event where they’d have the attention of an entire group on them. Generally, those with the condition struggle more in new situations and ones in which they’ll be watched by others for fear of being scrutinized or evaluated by others. Counselling helps these individuals break down their destructive and often irrational thought patterns.
The new study involved a group of individuals about to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder. Before the 12 weeks of treatment, the severity of their condition was measured and they were each shown a series of pictures, depicting either a neutral or an angry face. As they looked at the images, and fMRI scanner measured the difference in their brain activity when they were looking at the neutral and angry images. The individuals then went through the 12 weeks of treatment before a counsellor tested their social anxiety levels again.
It emerged that those who showed a greater difference in neurological activity when looking at the angry faces responded much better to CBT and had vastly reduced social anxiety after 12 weeks compared to those who responded less. The reason why high-level visual processing activity determines the outcome of therapy is far from understood, but the finding gives hope that in the future the best treatment could be determined ahead of time. The next stage of the research is to determine whether they could predict that medication or psychotherapy would be more effective for individual social anxiety sufferers.
This would be extremely valuable information, because the decision is currently based on more practical issues such as the ease of either treatment option for the patient and the likelihood of side effects from medication. If it is true that some individuals are more likely to respond to counselling and others are more likely to respond to medication, being able to identify this will reduce the number of those with the condition being sent for less effective treatment.
Social anxiety disorder is a serious condition that generally requires psychotherapy to tackle effectively. Although some individuals benefit from medicine, the truth is that when they stop taking it, the same thought patterns and social fears will resurface because the root cause hasn’t been addressed. Whilst the new research means it might be possible to identify which method is most effective for the individual, cognitive behavioural therapy addresses the problem in a much deeper fashion than medicine, so it is advised for most people with the condition. If you or your loved one is suffering from social anxiety disorder, we can help you determine the best option for treatment. We’ll listen to your requirements and conduct an assessment to determine the best approach for your needs. Getting the right treatment is never easy, but we’re here to help you! Drop in to our Luton offices or get in touch with us by telephone today!