Cognitive behavioral therapy might combat accelerated cellular aging for patients with social anxiety

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For patients suffering with social anxiety disorder, also known as social phobia, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a common non-pharmaceutical treatment option, may protect the brain from accelerated cellular ageing, a new study suggests.

The study, released online in the peer-reviewed journal Translational Psychiatry, involved 46 patients diagnosed with social anxiety disorder. Among those patients, two blood samples each were retrieved and cognitive behavioral therapy treatment was also given, all within a nine week period.

The primary aim of the study was to establish any effects cognitive behavioral therapy may have on particular cell markers among patients with social anxiety disorder.

As indicated in the findings, researchers found that cognitive behavioral therapy was significantly correlated with a reduction in anxiety and an increase in activity in the two protective enzymes telomerase and glutathione peroxidase.

“Telomere attrition is a hallmark of cellular aging and shorter telomeres have been reported in mood and anxiety disorders,” Kristoffer Mansson, the study’s lead author, writes. “Telomere shortening is counteracted by the enzyme telomerase and cellular protection is also provided by the antioxidant enzyme glutathione peroxidase (GPx).

“In our interpretation, it means that effective psychological treatment for anxiety can protect the cells against oxidative stress and cellular ageing,” Mansson explained.

“This is an exciting result that can eventually allow patients to be given effective treatment based on their biological profile. But more studies are needed before we can draw any real conclusions about causality,” Mansson concluded.

“This is the first step towards better understanding the link between cellular ageing and the treatment of psychiatric issues.”