Phenelzine efficacy in refractory social anxiety disorder: a case series

Nord J Psychiatry. 2003;57(4):313-5. doi: 10.1080/08039480310002110.


Several effective treatments for social phobia are now available, notably cognitive behavioural therapy and some antidepressant medications. Controlled trials indicate that 25-45% of patients fail to respond to the initial treatment. To my knowledge, nothing has yet been published on the treatment of refractory cases. Phenelzine is effective in social phobia, and no treatment has been shown to be superior to phenelzine. Hence, phenelzine is a reasonable option for patients unresponsive to other treatments. This report presents the results of naturalistic, open-label phenelzine treatment of a series of seven consecutive, previously unresponsive patients treated with a mean dose of phenelzine 66 mg. Six patients were classified as responders according to Clinical Global Impression (CGI) ratings. Some experienced dramatic improvement and regained ability to function in school or work. Two patients experienced re-emergence of social phobia while on maintenance therapy. The majority of patients had a sustained response and elected to stay on the medication. There were no serious adverse events. Two patients discontinued due to side-effects. The drawbacks of phenelzine therapy may be more than outweighed by its potential utility in relieving social anxiety disorder. Phenelzine appears to be effective in treating social phobia that has been unresponsive to other treatments. No patient should be considered treatment resistant without being offered a trial of phenelzine.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Phenelzine / therapeutic use*
  • Phobic Disorders / diagnosis
  • Phobic Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors
  • Phenelzine