Purpose: Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is a disabling condition that affects almost 5% of the general population. Many types of drugs have shown their efficacy in the treatment of SAD. There are also some data regarding psychotherapies, but no data are available today about the efficacy of brain stimulation techniques. The aim of the study is to compare the efficacy of noninvasive brain stimulation neuro psycho physical optimization (NPPO) protocol performed by radio electric asymmetric conveyor (REAC) with that of sertraline in adults with SAD.
Patients and methods: Twenty SAD patients on sertraline were compared with 23 SAD patients who refused any drug treatment and who chose to be treated with NPPO-REAC brain stimulation. This was a 6-month, open-label, naturalistic study. Patients on sertraline received flexible doses, whereas NPPO-REAC patients received two 18-session cycles of treatment. Clinical Global Improvement scale items "much improved" or "very much improved" and Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale total score variation on fear and avoidance components were used to detect the results. The statistical analysis was performed with t-test. All measures <0.05 have been considered statistically significant.
Results: Ten of 23 subjects on NPPO-REAC and six of the 20 taking sertraline were much improved or very much improved 1 month after the first NPPO-REAC cycle (t1). Sixteen of the subjects on NPPO-REAC and ten of the subjects taking sertraline were much improved or very much improved 1 month after the second NPPO-REAC cycle (t2). In respect of the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, at t1 NPPO-REAC resulted in statistically more efficacy for sertraline on both fear and avoidance total scores. At t2, NPPO-REAC resulted in statistically more efficacy for sertraline on fear but not on avoidance.
Conclusion: NPPO-REAC is an effective treatment for SAD, allowing substantial and clinically meaningful reductions in symptoms and disability in comparison with sertraline.
Keywords: REAC; avoidance; brain stimulation; fear; sertraline; social anxiety disorder.