CBT Effective For Anxious, Depressed Seniors
> 4/15/2009 7:25:33 PM

Senior citizens suffering from generalized anxiety disorder most often seek treatment with general practitioners, but a new study suggests that they would probably fare better under traditional cognitive behavioral therapy programs.

Unfortunately, the lifestyle changes and health complications associated with senior citizenship often take their toll on the general moods of those affected. The anxieties of later life, especially when lived in assisted housing, can be overwhelming, and estimates of GAD’s prevalence among primary care residents run as high as 11.2%.

Researchers at Baylor College in Houston conducted a randomized clinical trial of competing treatments in 134 adults with an average age of approximately 67. They contrasted a group who received CBT for 3 months with one that received enhanced usual care (EUC) and one group that received both, conducting follow-up surveys at 3, 6, 9, 12 and 15 months.

Where GPs often prescribe additional medications to cover insistent anxiety, CBT aims to teach seniors how to manage their stresses as a behavioral issue, and their treatment in this study included relaxation and motivational training, problem-solving skills and behavioral sleep management. The fact that CBT eschews medication also makes it more practical for a population that often takes many drugs simultaneously for any number of unrelated conditions. EUC, on the other hand, involved trips to the GP and bi-weekly support calls from care-provider- sponsored therapists who monitored symptoms and provide support if needed.  

The surveys measured each treatment plan’s relative successes based on the subjects’ own reports of their symptoms. Results were somewhat mixed but encouraging; subjects receiving CBT reported greater symptomatic improvement than those who only got EUC. The percentages reporting significant improvement were 40% and 22%, respectively. Medications didn’t factor into the results although some of the subjects were already on antidepressants or benzodiazepines when it began.  

The study’s conclusion makes clear the importance of face-to-face therapy sessions for seniors experiencing severe anxiety. Phone calls simply don’t compare. In order to relieve their anxiety, seniors need to spend time with a trained professional who suggests behavioral solutions to their real-world problems. The families of affected subjects should encourage them to try CBT, especially if their insurance provider covers it. The difference could be huge.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy