Lin XB, Lee TS, Cheung YB, Ling J, Poon SH, Lim L, Zhang HH, Chin ZY, Wang CC, Krishnan R, Guan C Exposure Therapy With Personalized Real-Time Arousal Detection and Feedback to Alleviate Social Anxiety Symptoms in an Analogue Adult Sample: Pilot Proof-of-Concept Randomized Controlled Trial JMIR Ment Health 2019;6(6):e13869
Exposure therapy is highly effective for social anxiety disorder. However, there is room for improvement. This is a first attempt to examine the feasibility of an arousal feedback–based exposure therapy to alleviate social anxiety symptoms in an analogue adult sample. A randomized, pilot, proof-of-concept trial was conducted to evaluate the acceptability, safety, and preliminary efficacy of our treatment program. Sessions were administered once a week for 4 weeks (1 hour each) to an analogue sample of 50 young adults who reported at least minimal social anxiety symptoms. Participants in both intervention and waitlist control groups completed assessments for social anxiety symptoms at the baseline, week 5, and week 10. Most participants found the intervention acceptable (82.0%, 95% CI 69.0%-91.0%). Seven (14.9%, 95% CI 7.0%-28.0%) participants reported at least one mild adverse event over the course of study. No moderate or serious adverse events were reported. Participants in the intervention group demonstrated greater improvements on all outcome measures of public speaking anxiety from baseline to week 5 as compared to the waitlist control group (Cohen d=0.61-1.39). Effect size of the difference in mean change on the overall Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale was small (Cohen d=0.13). Our results indicated that it is worthwhile to proceed to a larger trial for our treatment program. This new medium of administration for exposure therapy may be feasible for treating a subset of social anxiety symptoms. Additional studies are warranted to explore its therapeutic mechanisms.