Research into an innovative way of treating social anxiety disorder

The experience of mindfulness meditation

Good mental health and a positive feeling of emotional and spiritual well-being help a person to appreciate life and to deal with the many challenges of daily living. In contrast, mental health problems can significantly impair an individual’s daily routine. Social anxiety disorder is one of the most common psychiatric illnesses. According to a 2015 Statistics Canada report, nearly one out of 10 Canadians is affected by social anxiety disorder each year.

therapie-de-groupe-avec-dre-koszycki_0.jpgThe intensity of the fear and the avoidance behaviour that result from social anxiety can cause significant psychological distress and have a great impact on the individual’s quality of life. While several studies have shown the effectiveness of certain therapies, there are fewer studies that look at new treatments that could also help persons with social anxiety to deal with their situations.

Dr. Diana Koszycki, holder of a mental health research chair from the Institut de recherche de l’Hôpital Montfort and the University of Ottawa, is a pioneer in treating social anxiety with an approach integrating mindfulness meditation and spiritual practices. Meditation based on full awareness (mindfulness) is a long-standing practice that teaches a person how to calm mind and body, to be more mindful of his or her experiences, to deal with unpleasant situations and to be more compassionate toward self and others.

With her research team, Dr. Koszycki is now conducting a study funded by the Ontario Mental Health Foundation, to evaluate the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation. The main goal of the study is to compare the effectiveness of two therapies for people affected by Social Anxiety Disorder – a mindfulness-based intervention versus cognitive behaviour therapy.

The project, which already involves 60 participants, has the potential to better document the effectiveness of mindfulness meditation as an innovative treatment for social anxiety disorder, and to create greater awareness of this treatment among socially anxious individuals.

Hôpital Montfort is one of Ontario’s 24 research hospitals that contribute to a healthier, wealthier, smarter province.