Antibiotics may cure shyness

Published: July 9, 2008 | 7184th good news item since 2003

Young people and adults who experience social anxiety may benefit from a revolutionary new study being carried out at the University of Sydney.

The study’s lead researcher, Dr Adam Guastella from the University of Sydney’s Brain & Mind Research Institute, said the treatment involves a combination of cognitive-behaviour therapy and d-Cycloserine (DCS), an antibiotic commonly used to treat tuberculosis.

“What is so exciting about this research is that this radical new method of treatment uses DCS to help patients learn to overcome fear faster so that it is less likely to return,” Dr Guastella said. “We use the medication in combination with the best psychological therapy approaches we have to create a top of the line treatment.

“This trial will test how effective DCS is for the everyday mental health professional, and the likelihood that DCS will revolutionise anxiety treatments for the general community.”

Dr Guastella recently led the largest and most comprehensive trial of this medication to treat social anxiety in university clinics, with a team of UNSW and Macquarie researchers. Published in Biological Psychiatry, it is the first international study to provide strong and comprehensive evidence for the benefits of DCS.

“We gave 56 adults either the medication or a placebo immediately before a therapy session. Those who took DCS with psychological treatment showed greater and faster improvement in total wellbeing,” he said.

Dr Guastella said social anxiety typically develops between the age of 12 and 27, and his new treatment trial is aiming to target sufferers from 12 years to 65. “We are hoping to develop a more effective treatment that is likely to have the greatest impact on reducing long-term disability across the lifespan.”

He said research has found that social anxiety in early adulthood can contribute to long-term social isolation and other mental health problems later in life. In the early stages social anxiety often appears as shyness or a fear of being perceived negatively by others.

Published in Science & Technology
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