Social Anxiety and Its Treatment in Young People During COVID-19: A Systematic Review

Dryland, Amber
du Preez, Elizabeth
Van kessel, Kirsten
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

The COVID-19 pandemic affected young people on a global scale. Social anxiety disorder (SAD) has been noted as one of the most prevalent mental health disorders prior to the pandemic (Nagata et al., 2015) and with lockdowns causing natural social exposure to be limited there needs to be a better understanding of whether the prevalence in young people has been affected, and how to effectively treat those with SAD during the pandemic. This systematic literature review aims to synthesise and critically assess the research on the prevalence of social anxiety disorder (SAD) in young people, the evidence-based interventions utilised throughout the pandemic to treat young people with SAD, as well as how the pandemic impacted the delivery of these interventions. Three databases (PsycINFO, Scopus, and CINAHL) were used to generate the selected 16 articles that met the eligibility for inclusion. Due to the differences in study designs used in the included articles, a narrative synthesis was conducted. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) based interventions with a range of lengths are suggested to be of benefit to young people with SAD. The results suggest that the prevalence of SAD has increased compared to pre-pandemic. CBT was the main form of evidence-based practise utilised showing positive post-intervention outcomes. There are a few suggestions made to deliver interventions effectively through online platforms with the benefits and drawbacks of telehealth addressed. Future research addressing longer-term interventions for young people with SAD is warranted.

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