Combining escitalopram and cognitive-behavioural therapy for social anxiety disorder: randomised controlled fMRI trial

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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) are often used concomitantly to treat social anxiety disorder (SAD), but few studies have examined the effect of this combination.


To evaluate whether adding escitalopram to internet-delivered CBT (ICBT) improves clinical outcome and alters brain reactivity and connectivity in SAD.


Double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled neuroimaging trial of ICBT combined either with escitalopram (n = 24) or placebo (n = 24), including a 15-month clinical follow-up (trial registration: ISRCTN24929928).


Escitalopram+ICBT, relative to placebo+ICBT, resulted in significantly more clinical responders, larger reductions in anticipatory speech state anxiety at post-treatment and larger reductions in social anxiety symptom severity at 15-month follow-up and at a trend-level (P = 0.09) at post-treatment. Right amygdala reactivity to emotional faces also decreased more in the escitalopram+ICBT combination relative to placebo+ICBT, and in treatment responders relative to non-responders.


Adding escitalopram improves the outcome of ICBT for SAD and decreased amygdala reactivity is important for anxiolytic treatment response.

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