Abstract: Fear of blushing (FB) is a form of social anxiety disorder (SAD) characterized by an intense and obsessive threat of blushing in front of other people. No data are available on the specific efficacy of antidepressants on FB. This open-label pilot study investigated whether the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor escitalopram specifically improves symptoms of FB in SAD patients.
Thirty-nine patients meeting Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition criteria for SAD and presenting a significant FB according to the Salpêtrière Erythrophobia Questionnaire (SEQ) were administered open-label escitalopram (10–30 mg/d) for 12 weeks. A systematic assessment, at baseline and at week 12, included the SEQ, the Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale.
From the 39 patients included, 31 attended the week 4 visit, and 28 the week 12 visit. Significant reductions of FB were observed after 4 weeks of treatment and were more pronounced at the end of the 12-week treatment since patients experienced a 60% decrease in their FB symptoms (P < 0.001). Nineteen subjects (67.8%) reported a 50% decrease or more of their SEQ score, and 14 (50%) met criteria for remission of FB (SEQ score <7). The effect sizes of changes on SEQ, Liebowitz Social Anxiety Scale, and Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale scores were high, with η2 ranging between 0.53 and 0.86.
Results of this open-label study suggest that escitalopram can be a useful treatment for FB associated with SAD, even if large controlled trials are now needed to further evaluate this result.