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title pic Are Social Phobias Increasing Antidepressant Prescriptions in Teens?

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on October 21, 2011

Are Social Phobias Increasing Antidepressant Prescriptions in Teens?

A recent study conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is suggesting that one out of every eight teens suffers from a social phobia disorder that requires prescription medication treatments like Paxil, Zoloft or Celexa.

The study, which was published in Pediatrics, was conducted with researchers taking a survey from 10,000 teenagers between the ages of 13 and 18. The teens were surveyed about how shy they were. The researchers also talked about many other things in face-to-face interviews with the teens in an effort to gather data about other psychological characteristics. What they learned was that half of the girls and 43 percent of the boys admitted to being either a little bit shy or very shy. Of those, 12.4 percent met the requirements for social phobia as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

With this large number of teenagers eligible for a social phobia diagnosis, I can’t help but wonder if antidepressant treatments are far behind. However, Kathleen R. Merikangas, the lead author of the study, doesn’t think so since she and her colleagues found that teens that have social phobias aren’t currently more likely than other kids to take medications like Paxil and other antidepressants. That said, she thinks the majority don’t turn to drugs because it is believed that the current anxiety treatments aren’t marketed to treat social phobias.

“Behavioral therapy and exposure therapy really work for these kinds of fears,” Merikangas says. “You don’t have to put them on lifelong (antidepressants).”

That is a blessing, since research has shown that popular SSRI antidepressants like Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro and others can cause serious adverse side effects to users. Teens who already have a social disorder may not benefit from using these medications since they are known to cause aggressive behavior as well as suicidal thoughts and behavior. If a young woman starts taking these drugs now, she may find it hard to quit the highly-addictive drugs should she decide to get pregnant, and this could have a disastrous effect on her baby because SSRIs are also known to cause birth defects in babies whose mothers take the drugs during pregnancy. Some of the birth defects include PPHN, cleft palate and heart, brain and lung defects.

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