A randomized controlled trial of intranasal oxytocin as an adjunct to exposure therapy for social anxiety disorder

Adam J. Guastella*, Alexandra L. Howard, Mark R. Dadds, Philip Mitchell, Dean S. Carson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

287 Citations (Scopus)


In humans, oxytocin nasal administration reduces social-threat perception and improves processes involved in communication and the encoding of positive social cues. The aim of this study was to determine whether oxytocin given as an adjunct to exposure therapy improves treatment for social anxiety disorder (SAD) as indicated by a comprehensive set of symptom outcome measures. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, we administered 24 IU of oxytocin or a placebo in combination with exposure therapy to twenty-five participants who met primary diagnosis for SAD. Participants administered with oxytocin showed improved positive evaluations of appearance and speech performance as exposure treatment sessions progressed. These effects did not generalize to improve overall treatment outcome from exposure therapy. Participants who received oxytocin or placebo reported similar levels of symptom reduction following treatment across symptom severity, dysfunctional cognition, and life-impairment measures. This study shows that the administration of oxytocin improves mental representations of self, following exposure therapy. These effects may be either short term or situation specific. Future research is now needed to determine whether oxytocin can enhance treatment outcomes for SAD when used with greater frequency, with a wider variety of social learning experiences, and in conjunction with interventions that more specifically target change in broader dysfunctional cognitions. Crown

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-923
Number of pages7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Exposure therapy
  • Oxytocin
  • Peptide
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Treatment


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