Social anxiety disorder is a mental condition characterized by an extreme fear of being judged by other people. The statistics on the disorder are staggering: 85 percent of Americans with social anxiety disorder do not receive adequate treatment. Research indicates that 15 million Americans have social anxiety disorder, which means that nearly 13 million adults are struggling ineffectually with this debilitating illness. To put that into perspective, 13 million adults could fill every house and apartment in New York City, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and the entire state of Vermont. The remaining 250,000 could fill up more than three Disneylands.
Keep in mind, these 13 million adults are the ones who are not receiving treatment – not just the people who have the disorder.
In March of this year, the small startup Joyable opened its metaphorical doors to the internet. The founders of Joyable, Pete Shale and Steve Marks, were inspired by the high rates of untreated social anxiety in the United States. By creating Joyable, the pair of young entrepreneurs sought to make effective treatment for this harmful disorder more readily available.
The Joyable treatment program is arranged in six steps.
The first step, Meet, involves establishing contact with a personal coach via phone call, email or text. Joyable employs a number of mental health coaches who have been trained to guide their clients through each step of the treatment process.
The second step, Understand, teaches clients how to recognize social situations that might provoke their anxiety. By becoming aware of where they have difficulties – and why – they can come closer to understanding how to treat their anxiety.
The third step, Master, helps clients recognize anxious thought patterns. An anxious thought pattern might be: “My friend hasn’t called me back – she probably hates me.”
The fourth step, Challenge, teaches clients how to challenge these anxious thought patterns. A challenge to the anxious thought in the previous example might be: “My friend hasn’t called me back – she might be busy.”
The fifth step, Achieve, involves conquering specific social situations that make clients anxious. Clients begin with situations that make them a little anxious and ultimately build up to situations that make them more anxious.
The sixth and final step, Lock-In, guides clients on how to maintain the gains in mental well-being that they achieved during treatment.
The foundation of Joyable’s treatment program is based on a form of psychotherapy known as cognitive behavioral therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy, commonly known as CBT, is a structured form of therapy that teaches patients to both recognize and challenge harmful thought patterns. CBT has been used as a treatment for anxiety as well as depression and insomnia. In fact, in a recent meta-analysis – or a quantitative compilation of studies – CBT was identified as the most effective therapy possible for social anxiety disorder. Not only did patients improve significantly in how they coped with anxious situations, they also retained these improvements for 10 years following initial treatment.
CBT is an effective and durable method for treating social anxiety, but can it really be administered over the computer? Traditional forms of CBT involve a patient receiving guidance from a skilled clinician – not a computer screen. Research has indicated, however, that online CBT is just as effective as in-person therapy, opening the door for remote treatment methods. With Joyable, patients can receive therapy in any place at any time. This can be especially helpful for patients who live in regions with few mental health resources, as well as patients who have difficulties leaving the house.
Therapy administered through Joyable typically lasts for 12 weeks. Clients can pay $99 a month or $239 for three months. Although the prices might be steep, they come in at a fraction of the cost for more traditional therapies, once again increasing the availability of effective treatment for social anxiety.
The early studies about Joyable are incredibly promising – in fact, 90 percent of the initial users reported a substantial decrease in anxiety after completing the program. These results point toward a future in which mental health care can be readily available to anyone and everyone.
Sovereign Health Group provides some of the best available treatment for mental health, drug addiction and dual diagnosis. Sovereign’s aftercare program includes numerous interactive computer exercises to keep patients happy and healthy even after they have returned home. For further information, please contact 888-530-4614.
Written by Courtney Lopresti, M.S. neuroscience, Sovereign Health Group writer