Urge Social Phobia Patients to Broaden Circle of Friends. (Interpersonal Relationships Are Key)

Article excerpt

Toronto -- Cognitive-behavioral therapy has done a poor job of addressing interpersonal relationships in the treatment of social anxiety disorder, John Walker, Ph.D., said at the annual conference of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America.

"I think in the social anxiety arena, we've done a lot of work on establishing good treatment," he said. "But my hunch is that we've really neglected the interpersonal more than we should have."

To assess the personal relationships of people with social phobia, Dr. Walker and his colleagues surveyed 71 patients with social phobia and 46 healthy controls. The patients with social phobia were similar to the control group in terms of numbers of dating and spousal relationships but were less satisfied with those relationships, noted Dr. Walker, director of the anxiety disorders clinic at St. Boniface General Hospital, Winnipeg, Man.

In terms of nonromantic relationships, the patients with social phobia had roughly half as many friendships that had lasted longer than t year, compared with the control group. On average, the social phobia group had two close friends currently, compared with four for the control group.

In addition, 30% of the social phobia patients had friends who had told them that they were difficult to get close to, compared with 7% of the control group. Once people in the social phobia group did make friends, the relationships tended to last just as long as those of the control group, Dr. Walker said. "This suggests that if you can help people get over that hurdle of getting into a relationship and sticking with it for a while, often that relationship sticks."

Most of the literature on the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy to treat social anxiety disorder tends to put little emphasis on relationships, Dr. Walker said. "In terms of treatment, there hasn't been a lot of work on targeting more of the social skills. …

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