A Pilot Study on the Effectiveness of Mindfulness Group Therapy in Treating Social Anxiety Disorder
Recently, mindfulness-based interventions have demonstrated remarkable success in treating social anxiety disorder (SAD) and relieving negative emotions. Furthermore, these treatments are relatively affordable and can be delivered in the comfort of the patient’s own home – an invaluable advantage since SAD can often be difficult to treat in clinical settings.
Though the results were encouraging, some individuals with SAD may find it challenging to join mindfulness group therapy due to fears of relapse and difficulty communicating their emotions to others. This study sought to address these issues by testing the feasibility of group-based social anxiety disorder treatment.
Research methodology consisted of a single-blind, randomized controlled trial to investigate the effectiveness of mindfulness group therapy in relieving symptoms of social anxiety disorder. Utilizing a waitlist control group, 108 patients with SAD were randomly assigned either cognitive-behavioral group therapy (CBGT) or mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). Both groups received 12 2.5 hour sessions of personalized treatment from qualified instructors; additionally they received workbooks to supplement sessions and completed assessments at baseline and one year post treatment.
Participants completed the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales-21 (DASS-21) and Collaborative Assessment of Mental Measurements (CAMM). Furthermore, they underwent fMRI to measure brain activation during emotional regulation tasks.
At baseline, patients with SAD had lower levels of emotional clarity and more social anxiety compared to healthy controls. They also showed less attention to emotions. After treatment, however, those who received CBGT or MBSR showed significantly greater levels of emotional clarity than those on the waitlist; this effect persisted even one year post-treatment. Furthermore, fMRI results demonstrated that these changes in emotional clarity were associated with decreased levels of social anxiety.
Individual observations revealed that three participants who enrolled in the study experienced significant improvements in their emotional clarity and social anxiety. Furthermore, these individuals were more engaged and motivated to practice mindfulness outside of the group setting.
The majority of participants rated the content and presentation of the course as at least ‘good’, with no negative feedback reported. This result is particularly encouraging considering there are currently no other forms of minimalistic or non-committal group intervention available in Pakistan for this population.
This study has demonstrated the feasibility of introducing a minimalistic or non-committal group intervention for social anxiety disorder in Pakistan. The next step will be conducting an extended follow-up study to measure its effects on anxiety levels.
It is crucial that those suffering from social anxiety seek treatment, rather than self-medicate with alcohol, drugs or other substances. Therefore, group-based interventions must be implemented in order to alleviate symptoms and prevent relapse.
For participants to feel secure and safe in the room, having a trained facilitator is essential. This individual will make sure no one gets disrupted while everyone’s needs are taken care of. Furthermore, they will assist group members in communicating effectively.